How to BUILD a Happy Family?

Building may sound like an unusual word to use when referring to family, however, there is no way to overstate the fact that the family unit is the solid foundation on which an entire society is built and without it no civilization has ever survived! The family is where individuals learn the basic building blocks of how to love, trust and bond with others in order to become productive members of society. It is in the family that we are formed in the habits, behaviors, expectations, values, and choices that we carry with us into our adult relationships.

Therefore, it is essential to put in place STRUCTURES and framework that promote a sense of belonging, safety, hope, forgiveness and unity in the lifegiving BASECAMP of the Marriage and Family institution. As husbands and wives, this is our FIRST and most important ministry and priority above all others. In this busy world it is easy to lose that perspective. Especially in a culture that supports HYPER individualism and independence versus the value of healthy interdependent, complimentary relationships. However, it is in the core premise of the Christian faith that we were created for relationship, to love and be loved by God and one another. This is the meaning of life and the true source of joy. It turns out that many important studies, including a 75-year long Harvard study, have concluded that true happiness and health are dependent upon meaningful connections and relationships in our lives. Therefore, building a healthy, happy family MUST first begin by building a family culture of unconditional trust, love and dialogue between family members. This is the cement foundation of family.

Culture is the shared characteristics and practices shared by people in a place and time. Every institution, including government, corporate businesses, sports teams, the music, art and fashion industries all have a culture in and of themselves; an identity, if you will. For example, during a television interview this past Winter, snowboard Olympian Shaun White spoke about the “snowboard culture” being all about “what you wear” and “what music you listen to”. Similarly, in a family environment, there is food, faith, values, traditions and customs that are practiced which make up a part of their identity. Sharing RITUALS together as a family such as dinner time, watching certain shows or movies, attending mass or church services regularly, enjoying outdoor activities or anything that involves laughing, learning, playing, praying, serving or just being together are all lifegiving ways of belonging to and building family relationships. Finding common ground, especially at an early age, is an integral part of the formation that helps family members overcome fear, doubt, confusion and loneliness. This is where we find joy! How would you describe your family culture? Is it one seeping with toxic habits like sarcasm, cynicism, deceit, and criticism OR do you strive for a spirit of unity, kindness, forgiveness and relentlessly trying to love one another despite your imperfections? These are the bricks the build on top of the foundation.

Your family environment can either syphon the joy out of everyone or be a sanctuary of hope and support from the world we live in. This definitely does NOT mean being a perfect family, but rather building an atmosphere of real intimacy, moral values and security that begins with the parents and trickles down to the children. The family is the training ground for life and love. As parents we must never underestimate its’ value or whether the sacrifices are worth the effort. There will always be good days and bad days, as well as times for asking for forgiveness and healing but in the end every member must know they are loved and a valuable part of something much greater than themselves. These structures, to name a few, are what holds everything together when the storms come.

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