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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 family closer."

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."

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