Take a minute to sit back and think about a time when your family was operating smoothly and everyone was feeling pretty good. What was going on? Below are some of the things that come to mind for my family when things are going well. Everyone is:
- Pitching in with household tasks
- Joining the family for meals
- Acting respectful
- Feeling supported and loved
- Remembering to let the rest of the family know where they are and when they’ll be home
- Feeling like they have enough time and don’t have to rush
- Healthy and getting enough rest and exercise
- Having time for fun
Do these things happen all the time? No, but when they do happen, our family atmosphere is more pleasant.
1. Begin with changing yourself.
What changes could you make to your own behavior which would positively impact your family? Since you absolutely control your own behavior, you can make these changes happen!
Gretchen Rubin invested a year working on changing her life for the better. Each month she focused on a different part of her life and described her journey in The Happiness Project. She tackled things like going to bed earlier, organizing her life, asking for help, exercising better, acknowledging people’s feelings, and taking time to be silly. Each month she focused on a different area of her life. For example, for April she wrote, “To become more tender and playful with my two daughters. I wanted a peaceful, cheerful, even joyous atmosphere at home – and I knew that nagging and yelling weren’t the way to achieve that.”
She thought of various ways to become more tender and playful with her daughters. She kept a log of her goals and regularly checked off how she was doing on each goal. Keeping a log gave her a way of staying accountable for her goals.
2. Involve the entire family.
I’ve recently spoken to a couple different moms who are very unhappy with how isolated their family members have become. Although they all live in the same house, they rarely share time together. Most of the time, each child and parent eats dinner by themselves.
These situations have been exacerbated by technology. Parents and children each have their own computer, phone, video game and TV. Over time each family member has become increasingly interested in spending time alone with their technology of choice.
Making changes that involve the entire family will take everyone’s cooperation. One way to begin the process is with a family meeting. Establishing regular family meetings is useful for making significant changes. Family meetings provide a structure that allows problems to be expressed, solutions to be brainstormed, and implemented ideas to be evaluated.
Will it be easy? No. Will it be worth it? Yes. When someone in the family is seriously unhappy, ignoring the elephant in the room does not make it go away. In fact, the elephant is likely to stampede – making a huge mess at the most inopportune time.
3. Choose one thing to change.
If you could only choose to make one change in your family, what would it be? You are more likely to be successful if you focus on one item at a time. Making any change takes time and plenty of practice. It can also be helpful to find someone outside your family who can give you support on the changes you are trying to make.
May this year be the one where your family makes many changes for the better!
What would you like to change in your family this year?