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If each person is a world, families are a universe, with the added complexity that planets do not align without carrying out a hard and complex effort. The well-being of each family member depends on the whole, a difficult but achievable balance on which American psychologist and divulgator Bruce Foile has theorized in his latest essay, The Secrets of happy families (William Morrow). A kind of Parent Guide that provides tips on how to strengthen ties and approach the dynamics of everyday life in a new way.

What’s the best way to spend a good family vacation? What about spending a Sunday afternoon together? How and when should children be told about sexuality? Family life is a roller coaster, with its moments of joy and sadness, its satisfactions and dislikes, as well as its rewards and problems. For the positive to prevail over the negative, Foile’s teachings have been summed up in Time by coach Eric Barker in five points, as Commandments, whose application is extended to any family. Sharing, discussing, spending time together and helping each other are the three pillars upon which these teachings are based. All of this is dressed up to implement these positive habits, which will only be achieved on the basis of effort and perseverance.

Rethink, all together, what is expected of the family and what its values are

Sharing, discussing, spending time together and helping each other are the three pillars upon which these teachings are based.
Dialogue, dialogue and dialogue. For the author of the secrets of happy families it is essential to devote time to sit down and talk about what it means to each one to be part of the family, and what values it should be based on. To explain this, Foile uses business jargon, comparing this step with the development of the basic principles of a business strategy. That is, to identify or agree on a series of core values that will guide much of the decisions that are taken together. It is never too late to take this step, which will serve to reshape family goals, which are sometimes forgotten or underestimated in privilege of each other’s personal or professional goals.

Tell the couple and the children the family story

One of the research cited by Foile in his essay came to the conclusion that the more and better he knows the history of his family the better he will have self-esteem, as well as a greater personal realization. According to the results, the factor that most affects the emotional well-being of children are conversations with their parents about the family, but not only discovering anecdotes or data, but also the problems they had to face and how they resolved them. In fact, the specialist adds, the latter is the key because it offers models of behavior to the little one, who will internalize the way in which to put family values into practice.

Family meetings every weekFamily meetings every week

There are to readjust the family goals, which sometimes tend to be forgotten or underestimated in the privilege of the personal goals or professional of every one
Twenty minutes is enough, but gathering all the members of the family once a week is crucial to achieve family happiness, according to Foile, using as an example his own experience. “We are basically trying to answer three specific questions: what went well this week? What have been the greatest difficulties? What challenges do we want to face next week?”. On the basis of the latter issue, “if children meet the goals, they may be given a prize, as well as a small punishment if they do not,” he adds.

Solving problems as soon as they occur

Good communication, as in human relations in general, is an inseparable aspect of well-being. But day-to-day quarrels are inevitable, and conflict resolution is not an easy task. To get around them in the best way, the author mentions three basic guidelines.

The first is to try to be neutral. To do this, if it is for example a fight between children, it will be advisable to talk to them separately, which will avoid negative reactions and placate anger. Secondly, it is advisable to ask children themselves to offer three alternatives to solve the problem. Thirdly and finally, the two children must be brought together to discuss the solutions proposed and to choose one to which they are both committed.

Dinner always together

Several of the research cited in the book conclude that family dining influences the personality of children, as it is an ideal time to talk about the day, to put points in common and, ultimately, to strengthen family ties. To make the most of this moment, the psychologist recommends that the youngest children be allowed to participate in the conversation or play pedagogical games, such as trying to teach them something new every day.