Secrets of Happy Families Charles September 10, 2014 Family From the Brady Bunch and Partridge Family to the Cleavers, Cunninghams, and Cosbys, images of happy families have rarely been in short supply. We all have ideas about what they should look like. Does yours fit the portrait of a happy family? If not, don’t despair. Now WebMD is letting you in on a few of the secrets to a happy family. You, too, can experience some of the domestic bliss that seemed previously reserved just for TV families. Happy Family Secret No. 1: Enjoy Each Other The essence of a happy family is that they truly uplift each other and that all comes down to how they treat each other, says Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, a New York-based family and relationship counselor and host of The Learning Channel’s Shalom in the Home. “There is a joy that characterizes their interaction,” says Boteach, father of eight children and author of several books, including the forthcoming Shalom in the Home. “Parents come home and the kids are happy to see them and when kids come home, the parents are happy to see them.” Happy Family Secret No. 2: Swap Stories “When your kids come home, ask them what happened in school and have a story for them,” he says. “If you come home dejected and not really interested and then five minutes later the TV is on, why would they be happy to see you?” The bottom line, he says, is that when you come home, your kids have to come first. “You must drop everything you are doing and always come home with something to share with your kids, whether a story or even the smallest vignette,” he says. “This way you give your kids something to look forward to. The great bane of family life is boredom and that is what leads to dysfunction, affairs, and kids wanting to be with their friends over family.” Happy Family Secret No. 3: Put the Marriage First “Set a real example of love,” Boteach says. “The relationship and marriage must come first.” Think Carol and Mike Brady of the Brady Bunch and Cliff and Clair Huxtable of the Cosby Show. There are many families where kids always come first, says Boteach. Then they become substitute providers of love, he says. “That’s an unfair burden to put on a kid.” It’s also bad for families, he says, “because kids will move out of the house eventually.” Happy Family Secret No. 4: Break Bread Together Families that eat together, stay together. It’s that simple. “Family dinners are essential,” Boteach says. “It’s a time to connect.” Have a minimum of four family dinners per week, he suggests. Happy Family Secret No. 5: Play Together “Have one or two unifying activities that the family does together on a nightly basis,” Boteach says. He suggests bedtime stories for young children or reading a chapter from a novel to an older child.