What makes a happy family?

You might think everyone else is doing it right and you are the only one struggling, but every parent has a bad day and putting more pressure on yourself is not the answer, says child psychologist Dr Amanda Gummer.

Happy Families. So what’s their secret? You see them all around, these idyllic families: smiling parents, well-behaved children, affection, respect and unity…..or is that just in the movies?

Actually it’s not as uncommon as it seems and there are times when people look at you and think how lovely/happy/idyllic your family seems, but they just never tell you.

When you’re working and have young children or challenging teens, it can seem like the ‘ideal’ family life you dreamt of, long ago, when you felt your first kick is a million miles away.

The trick is not to think that these snapshots of a perfect life that you see are permanent – everyone has good days and everyone has bad days and the idyllic family that you saw in the park when you were trying to stop your two from killing each other, or running yourself ragged trying to keep track of your toddlers, were probably screaming blue murder at each other the day before.

Right decision

Research recently carried out on workingmums.co.uk suggests that on balance, most of us feel we have it about right when it comes to balancing our work and family lives.

Despite feeling that we can’t afford not to work, most of us feel that we’re making the right decision and that the family benefits from having a working mum.

So, if the basics are right and we don’t need to reassess our whole lives, what can be done to make those ‘idyllic’ moments come round a bit more often?

The first thing to do is relax – it’s as simple and as difficult as that. If you feel confident in your decisions, relax and enjoy them.

When things don’t go to plan (when do they if you have young kids?), try and go with the flow a bit more – laugh about the difficulties, ‘make-do-and-mend’ and you’ll be amazed at how the kids respond.

It might not be easy at first, but relaxing is habit forming, and like many things, the more you do it, the easier it becomes.


It is easier to do if you feel confident, in control and supported, so if any of those are a little lacking, have a look at what you can do to redress the balance.

However, the working mums poll showed that not everyone does feel confident about their decisions. If that’s you, you need to be proactive – do some research, talk to trusted friends and family, and then make an informed decision that feels right for you.

Whether it’s around childcare, working arrangements, housework, or holidays, make sure that you feel generally happy with the set up of your life and you’ll be half way there.

If you feel more confident in your decisions, your kids will respect those decisions (because you’ll be able to explain the reasons behind them) and they will also pick up on your reduced stress levels and become less stressed themselves.

As the Parent-Centred Parenting model of family life shows, the best thing you can give your kids is a happy, healthy, unstressed role model to copy.

All of this is a great buffer to help cushion the blow of those challenges that face us all.

So, as the UK prepares to celebrate its first National Family Week this week, let’s celebrate what’s right about our lives and not constantly compare ourselves less favourably to an unrealistic ‘ideal’ and look out for those perfect moments – they’ll come round more often than you think!

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