4 Keys to Building a Happy Family
2. Happy families...lean on others.
As an Army wife, Hillari Bashioum, 42, of Lawton, OK, has spent her entire
married life relying on other military families. "My family enjoys the support
and guidance of other families who are going through all the things we have,
like deployments and separation for assignments," says Bashioum, mother of four
kids, ages 6 to 21. "And pulling together to help other families brings our
No family thrives in a bubble — your extended relatives, friends, neighbors,
and other networks are crucial to your happiness. "Other families expose kids
to new ideas and lifestyles and give them a broader view of their roles in
their own family as well as in their community," Haltzman says.
"Spending time with our extended family is a big deal for us," says Gita Saini,
39, a mom of two, ages 5 and 8, in Orange County, CA, who has two
sisters-in-law living close by. "The kids see our values, such as education and
helping family, within our extended family, so those values are reinforced even
more," she says.
If you don't have a built-in network, Haltzman suggests creating your own
support system through volunteering, joining the PTA or a book club,
participating in religious services, or simply reaching out to your neighbors.
Alison Miller, 38, a mother of two in Chicago, has been getting together with
eight other families in her neighborhood every Friday for the last seven years.
The get-togethers started out as a playgroup for the moms and their first
babies and evolved into a weekly dinner party that includes their husbands and
16 children. "We have formed an unlikely and remarkable community," Miller
says. "I know that I can always count on these women for anything I need."
3. Happy families...bounce back.
Truly happy families have the resiliency to face life's challenges and stay
strong. "Going through difficult times can actually make you feel more
connected as a family," Haltzman says. But what can you do to maximize your
family's ability to absorb big blows? Emphasizing the positive has helped the
Jackson family find happiness despite debilitating illness. Sue Jackson, 43,
was diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome in 2002 — and her two sons, then 6
and 10, were diagnosed with the same disorder just a few years later. The
Jacksons learned to adjust to their "new normal" and are now closer than ever.
"Even during our worst times of illness, we remind our boys how fortunate we
are to have each other," says Jackson, who lives in Wilmington, DE. "We try to
find joy in everyday life by celebrating often, even small things."
Strong routines and rituals also help families regain their equilibrium when
calamity strikes. When Edie McRae and her family lost their home in New Orleans
to Hurricane Katrina, they relocated to Houston. The McRaes had to build a new
life for themselves and their two sons, then ages 2 and 3. "We enrolled our
oldest in preschool right away; having new friends lessened his worry," says
McRae, 33. "And we got back to our nightly story time and weekend movies as
quickly as possible. I realized that the boys craved those things because it
helped them feel like they were home."