Carol Ann | Jul 14, 2009
How often today do we hear that lament, “Help me, my family’s falling apart…” or “I can’t stand to be around my crazy, dysfunctional family.” Happy families are in danger of becoming extinct in today’s world where individuality, inflexibility and selfishness seem to be the driving emotions in the average human human being. There is no doubt that the breaking down of the traditional family unit and its embedded value systems are among the key factors responsible for the social decay and personal feelings of angst that are manifesting all around us.
Without the bedrock of happy, well-grounded and responsible families, our society and by extension, our civilisation, is weakening at its core level and steadily aborting prospects for balanced social and economic progress in the years to come. There is much merit in the old adage, “The hand that rocks the cradle rules the world.”
Genuine progress in any society is hardly about one-sided technological developments or the vulgar, money-worshiping propensities and materialism of the nouveau riche. Au contraire, civilization evolves when it is predicated on family harmony, spiritual development, social responsibility toward the environment and all sentient beings and an appreciation for art, science and life in its diverse manifestations. In most instances, the family unit is the womb within which all human frames of reference, values and aspirational goals are birthed and nurtured.
Happy, deeply-inspired families are the ones that spend quality time together. They learn together, grow together and show affection for each other in myriad ways. But what actually creates the environment to nurture a happy and emotionally balanced family? It is really very simple.
Writers Diane Loomans and Julia Loomans in their book, Full Esteem Ahead: 100 Ways to Teach Values and Build Self-Esteem for All Ages suggest that parents should consider the “Happy Home” Interview. In those learning sessions, parents were requested to ask their children two simple questions: “What is a happy home like?” and “What makes our home feel good?”
Parents were amazed by the simplicity and honesty of the responses which usually focused on everyday things. The kids were more interested in feeling good and connecting with their parents than they were in expensive toys, computer games or big houses. The children said they were happiest when the family played games together; hugged and showed their affection regularly; communicated openly and showed interest in each other by asking about the events of the day.
You too can begin your quest to nurture a happy home by having your children write down their answers to your Happy Home interview. Feel free to modify or add questions but make sure it is an enjoyable self-exploratory exercise for the children. This idea should be extended to include spouses and both husband and wife (where applicable) should make an effort to answer the same questions.
Share the ideas with the family and make plans to act on some of the easier-to-implement recommendations as soon as possible. For example if someone wants to hear crystal wind chimes because they invoke memories of contentment and inner peace, then all it takes is a trip to the store to make that one little dream come true. Try to accommodate at least one suggestion from every family member at regular intervals so no one feels left out of the plans.
We are living in a world where increasingly people tend to whine, complain and focus on the ‘negative’ facets of living instead of looking at life in a balanced, objective way. Unfortunately too many children are being conditioned to be on the “gimme gimme” wavelength and are not encouraged to be mindful of the abundance that surrounds them in the form of family, friends, nature and life opportunities. An old French proverb reminds us that, “Gratitude is the heart’s memory.” A happy family is one that is truly appreciative of its blessings and challenges because both converge to create the ideal circumstances to build character and deepen the love and commitment among members. Remind each other every day to be thankful for relatives, friends, animals and nature and the wonderful opportunities to learn and grow as individuals. Teach your kids to explore and integrate this precious, life-affirming principle into their lives. As they learn to focus on the abundance rather than on the perceived ‘lack’ in their lives, you will be helping them to design an important new blueprint for the future while you keep positive vibrations flowing in the home place.
Bring your family closer together by creating a quality ‘family night’ every week. Designate one night every week as ‘together time’ and have a theme so no one is bored by just sitting around. You can consider an exotic cook-out night, comedy movie night, spiritual story night or anything else that will interest the family. Consider changing the themes after a while and ask family members for suggestions. Feel free to share jokes, incidents at work or school, questions and anecdotes with each other. You will be surprised at how much more you’ll learn to appreciate and support each each other during these special evenings. Don’t forget to switch off those intrusive cell phones while you are enjoying each other’s company.
Another way to deepen family bonding, teach kids responsibilities (and get some work done around the house at the same time) is to carefully assign family responsibilities. If everyone in the family is participating regularly in some type of personal development activity or hobby, then household chores will be neglected or overlooked. Call a family meeting and explain that in order to maintain the schedule of other activities, everyone will have to contribute some time to get the housework done and then assign chores according to age and ability. Even the younger children can help with simpler tasks such as picking up toys, clearing the table and watering plants.
Wouldn’t it be great if when you start a family, someone can hand you a book of guaranteed-to-work guidelines on how to nurture a satisfied and emotionally well-adjusted family? Unfortunately that is not possible but you can do a great job anyway by implementing a few basic, time-tested guidelines. As cliched as it may sound, a family that plays and prays together, stays together. Keep your family inspired and motivated with love, appeciation, wholesome values, reality checks and a fair share of responsibilties and you are well on your way to success. This is not about quantum physics or advanced calculus. It is about priorities, common sense, sensitivity and a willingness to realise that a loving family is the wind beneath the wings of every child, man and woman who wants to soar to greater heights in life.
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