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Health & Parenting

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4 Keys to Building a Happy Family

1. Happy families...know who they are.

When your family agrees on its core values — and consistently lives by those standards — you'll build a stronger family identity and reduce conflict.

Certain values fall into place naturally; if you're married, you and your husband probably committed to each other in the first place because of values that both of you share. However, Haltzman insists on not simply letting your values evolve on their own, but rather deliberately shaping and naming your core principles. "Defining your values together cannot only reinforce a lot of the qualities that brought you together, but it can also help steer you in times when you feel conflicted," he says. Knowing that you prioritize new experiences, for example, you might decide to pull the kids out of school for a special family trip, while another family who values education over everything else would never consider scheduling a vacation during the school year.

Although the grown-ups in the house should drive the discussion, children can also play a part in framing your family's ideals. When Kerry Woodcock, 37, of Calgary, Alberta, and her husband discussed defining their values a few years ago, they asked their children (now ages 8, 7, and 3) about their favorite family moments to gauge which mores were important to them. Their son's love of the family's nightly gratitude ritual (when everyone shares their best moments of the day) has helped them define gratitude as a key value.

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