Modern living puts a strain on family harmony, but there are things we can do to keep the home fires burning brightly. Experts point to at least five qualities that happy families have:
• appreciation for each other
• open communication
• a willingness to spend time together
• strong leadership
Most specialists say that a loving family starts with a loving marriage. It's the flame that lights the stove that warms the house. "The family is a by-product of the relationship between husband and wife," says Daniel Araoz, Ed.D., past president of the Academy of Psychologists in Marital Sex and Family Therapy, a division of the American Psychological Association.
"The family will stay strong only if the couple keeps the original motivation that brought them together," he says. "They need to feel they are happier together than they are alone, and that they accept each other as they accept themselves. If a couple has those feelings, they'll be passed along to the children."
Love between grandparents and grandchildren also can keep a family together. Children may rebel against their parents, grow up, and move away, but when grandchildren come into the world, families seem to be reunited.
In a survey at Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut, dozens of elderly couples told psychology professor James J. Conley, Ph.D., that they often disagreed with their children on moral and political issues and felt a distinct "generation gap." But love for their grandchildren managed to bridge that gap.
Of the couples surveyed, 90 percent rated their relationships with their grandchildren as good to excellent. They called this new source of love a "solidifying factor" in their families and said it brought about substantial "wound healing." (‘The Complete Guide to Your Emotions and Your Health’, by Emrika Padus and staff of Prevention magazine)