Building Strong Healthy Family RelationshipsHas your family time started to feel more and more like a regimen? Get dressed, eat breakfast, find everyone’s shoes, pack a lunch and go, go, go? Whether you are focused on potty training your three year old, getting your teenager through math, or just keeping everyone organized, there are habits you can include in your day that will help make your family life effective and happy. Communicate ClosenessDon’t fall for common myths that tell us that happy families don’t have problems. Families come in all shapes and sizes—and all families face difficulties, some more challenging than others. Happy, effective families gather their personal resources to face those challenges together. There is one important, common element: communication. Each person in your family needs to know that he or she will be heard, even though not everyone can always get “their way.” That means everyone has to try to listen and understand each other. Family communication doesn’t have to look perfect. Sometimes it can be messy, but it creates an environment where you and your children can be open about interests and feelings. Good, positive communication brings people together when they most need each other. Connect and ReconnectRoutines can wear us down—or they can be consistent opportunities for closeness, to connect and reconnect. Meal times and bedtime routines are excellent ways to spend time together. Make sure you are focused on each other; no phones or other distractions. Use these times to catch up on stories from the day, discuss fun ideas, and listen. Save corrections, direction or other family business for another time. Think about other points in the day, such as diaper changes and rides in the car. These are additional opportunities to connect with your children, to give them your undivided attention. Even greetings and partings can reaffirm family bonds—like always saying, “I love you,” when you say good bye or habitually greeting your child with a pet name that only you use. Reduce Stress and Increase SatisfactionStress and busy-ness can also get in the way of families’ effectiveness. Make choices about what is important. You cannot do everything; no one can. So decide what is worth it for you and your family, at this time. Then prioritize. If you think you are “multitasking,” you may just be doing several things less well. You will get much more satisfaction by deciding what is most important and doing that thing really well. Maybe the laundry doesn’t get folded and you have to get up a little early to prepare for a meeting, but you spend a relaxed bedtime with your children and get that important phone call returned. Using time carefully maximizes the opportunities you choose and models an important skill for your children. Share Family ValuesHappy families share values. Everyone in your family should be clear on the bottom-line rules and expectations. Set clear, consistent rules and use meaningful consequences when expectations are not met. Also, be aware of the example you set. Like it or not, adults provide a model for what is acceptable. Children hear what parents say and watch what they do—in the family and in their daily lives. Make sure your actions reflect the values you want to see in your children. Seek Out Other Effective FamiliesFamilies are affected by the people and activities they surround themselves with. So seek out other happy and effective families. Spend time in community groups, at events, and in the company of others who are as intentional as you are about being happy, effective and healthy. Remember, families are not made up of schedules and routines; they are made up of people and relationships. Good relationships are based on trust and respect. Show your children how important they are; slow down, unplug, and be present. Enjoy some time with each of your children every day. As the saying goes, they will not care what you know until they know that you care. -nola family staff Looking for more ways to enjoy family time? Check out our article "Family Friendly Places To Camp"