Let’s face it, when it comes to difficult jobs, parenting is as hard as it gets. It can be lonely, isolating and frustrating, while filled to the brim with love, laughter and blessings every day. Refresh your parenting skills by implementing these happy family habits right now.
According to clinical psychologist, Pamela Dockstader-Ortiz, Psy.D., undistracted communication is a top strategy of happy families. “We can start by practicing better self-awareness in the moment so that we can be truly present when interacting with our family,” Dockstader-Ortiz says. “This will convey to the other person that you are giving them 100% of your attention, that you are genuinely interested, and that they matter!” She also recommends keeping a family notebook, where each member uses a different color pen, to keep communication lines open during the busiest of schedules.
I treasure the traditions my husband and I have established at home and Dockstader-Ortiz agrees. “Traditions are important because they offer a sense of identity, belonging and togetherness….and are unique in each family.” She adds that traditions need not be elaborate or complicated, eating a regular family meal counts as a tradition as well. Find small ways, like holiday baking or family walks, to create distinctive traditions for your family to cherish for years to come.
Boundaries define personal limits and promote self-reliance in children. “One of our goals as parents is to help our children to differentiate, and become autonomous and separate individuals,” says Dockstader-Ortiz. “We can do this by promoting and supporting their individual thoughts and ideas, and likes and dislikes.” Supporting kids in this way and celebrating their uniqueness fosters kids’ self-esteem.
In our home, learning and demonstrating respectful behavior is a family rule, but like most, it occasionally gets broken. Life comes into play and we lose our focus, but we shouldn’t, because respectful behavior is a cornerstone of happy family interactions. “Each moment and situation in our day to day life offers opportunity to guide and teach our children life lessons about values, beliefs, as well as right from wrong,” says Dockstader-Ortiz. “We have the ability to model pro-social behavior for our children to learn—leading by example begins at home—and the earlier the better!”
Happy families understand that playtime is integral in family happiness. “Playtime with our children is so important because there is a time to be a parent and then a time to level the playing ground, so to speak, by relating to our children and nurturing the relationship on a whole different level,” says Dockstader-Ortiz. She advises keeping family fun free of expectations, criticisms and judgments in order to foster independent thinking, imagination and creativity.
For more on your Family Communication Notebook, check out this week’s Grab the Good video for the GateHouse News Service: