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Health & Parenting

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15 Secrets of Happy Families

Experts reveal the key ingredients to a happy family life.

Happy Family Secret No. 9: Keep Your Voices Down

Remember that children thrive on stability. "There has to be a calm environment at home," says Boteach. "Talk to your kids, give them strict rules, and punish children when necessary, but don't lose control and yell. If you yell at kids, that shows you are out of control and you create a nonpeaceful environment."

Happy Family Secret No. 10: Never Fight in Front of the Kids

TV viewers never really saw Carol and Mike Brady go at it, did they? While some fighting or bickering may be inevitable, try to keep it away from the children, Boteach says. "If your kids see you fight and argue, apologize and say, 'We are sorry you had to see it. Daddy and I just had a disagreement, but everything is OK now.'"

Happy Family Secret No. 11: Don't Work Too Much

All work and no play does worse things to a family than make it dull. "If you are away all the time and don't prioritize your kids, your kids will internalize feelings of insecurity," says Boteach. They'll begin to believe that they're not valuable enough.

Happy Family Secret No. 12: Encourage Sibling Harmony

Sibling rivalry can be divisive. "I try to speak to my kids about how fortunate they are to have siblings," Boteach says.

Happy Family Secret No. 13: Have Private Jokes

Happy families have inside jokes, Syracuse's Fiese says, "Jokes and nicknames symbolize that this is a group that you belong to and serves as a shorthand for larger experiences," she says.

Happy Family Secret No. 14: Be Flexible

"This is easier said than done," says Fiese. "But by their very nature, families change so you have to be open to change in membership and age," Fiese says. "Somebody gets married, somebody dies, somebody remarries and teenagers are no longer children and young adults are no longer teenagers, but they are all still part of the family."

Happy Family Secret No. 15: Communicate

Rose J. Perkins, EdD, associate professor of psychology at Stonehill College in Easton, Mass., says that a happy family communicate with one another. "Frequently families are set up where everyone tells the mom and then the mom sends the message, but in a happy family, there are more flexible, open lines of communication."

In happy families, "all the members of family unit are able to communicate openly," she says.

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Reviewed on January 01, 2007

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