8 Secrets of Happy Families
Try these ways to enjoy one another's company more; to have more fun; and to be, well, happier.
Leo Tolstoy had it right when he wrote in Anna Karenina, "Happy families are all alike." Okay, he wasn't thinking about a three-kids-and-a-minivan lifestyle, but his point was timeless: Some families just seem to enjoy one another's company more; to have more fun; to be, well, happier. What do they know that the rest of us don't? We asked parents and other experts to spill their secrets. For a more joyful clan, why not try what works for them? Here are some of their techniques.
Whether it's making pancakes for dinner on Sunday nights or ending every car trip by saying "Home again, home again, jiggity-jog," unique family rituals strengthen ties like nothing else.
"Traditions give children a sense of identity and belonging," says Richard Eyre, coauthor of The Happy Family: Restoring the 11 Essential Elements That Make Families Work. "They may seem insignificant to adults, but kids hang on to them."
The Eyres have celebrated family birthdays in special ways since their children were small. "Because mine is in autumn, we always rake a big pile of leaves and jump in them," says Eyre. The year three of his nine children, now ages 16 to 30, left home, he opened the mail on his birthday to find three separate envelopes, each with a leaf inside. "It was each child's way of saying 'I'm still part of the family,'" he says.
The Friday-night tradition in the Pritz household, in Glenside, PA, includes two pizzas, a movie in the living room, and everyone -- Mom, Dad, and their four kids, ages 2 to 7½ -- on the floor in pajamas. "It's a simple ritual, but we look forward to it all week. I grew up going to Friday-night drive-in movies with my family," says mom Denise. "I hope my kids remember our movie nights as happily as I remember the drive-in."