Bring happy back to your family

By Crystal TateBring Happy Back to Your FamilyBring Happy Back to Your Family

With busy work schedules, kids' activities and infinite to-do lists, it can be hard to actually connect with your family on a regular basis. As a result, your family's relationship could ultimately suffer. We spoke with Scott Haltzman, MD, author of The Secrets of Happy Families: Eight Keys to Building a Lifetime of Connection and Contentment, to find out how to grow closer-and happier-with your family.

1. Always acknowledge your family members. "One of the primary needs for an individual is feeling connected," says Dr. Haltzman. It could be as simple as greeting everyone at the door when he or she walks in the house, or asking your daughter how her day was.

2. Sit down for dinner. Studies have shown that families that sit down for dinner together are less likely to have kids develop juvenile delinquency. Also, their children use fewer drugs and are more likely to finish school. Sitting down for dinner will also help build a sense of family strength and identity.

3. Engage in acts of generosity toward others. As a family, determine who needs the most help in your community, then decide to work together at a local food pantry or offer to assist an elderly neighbor. This is also an important lesson for kids, that it's not always about them.

4. Schedule a family day. The only rule is that you must turn off TVs, cell phones, computers and any other electronics for 24 hours. Use this day to go camping, swimming or have a picnic in your backyard. This will help emphasize to your family that you're connected to one another, not things.

5. Communicate, communicate, communicate. Set a regular time to sit down together as family so you can talk about things that need to get done as well as address any issues that one of you may be having. This reinforces that a family has to work together in a proactive way to solve problems. Also, this will help kids grow into mature adults.

6. Be involved in a religious community. Families who regularly go to church or participate in religious activities usually have a better sense of purpose and meaning. They are also usually better able to resist negative influences.

7. Let the kids take the lead. Children often like to be heard, so it's a good idea to sometimes let the kids decide what the family is doing for the weekend. It allows kids to be decision makers and learn their boundaries.

8. Make a commitment to work together. All families experience setbacks along the way. Despite any problems or issues your family may encounter, it's important to turn a "give-up" mentality into a "we-will-work-it-out" one. Remember, your family is a team.

9. Take care of physical health. If you eat junk food and never exercise, your kids will likely follow in your footsteps. Enforce proper nutrition in kids by eating healthy, and consider exercising together as a family. Also, encourage your kids to wear helmets when bike-riding and seat belts while riding in the car. You want to serve as a role model to your family when it comes to taking care of their well-being.

10. Accept family members for who they are. Family members aren't going to be carbon copies of one another. Sometimes you have to step out of your own perspective and look at another person's point of view. Always keep your values in mind, but be open-minded enough to try to see things the way others see them.

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