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There’s No Perfect Family, but a Happy Family Doesn’t Need to Be Perfect

There’s No Perfect Family, but a Happy Family Doesn’t Need to Be Perfect

Family members offer more support to us than just about anyone else in the world. Odds are, those who raised you are willing to help you in any way they can.

While family dynamics are as unique as the individuals themselves, most families strive to be healthy and functional.[1] Humans desire love and sense of security, and who else can do that better than our families? We all want families we can trust. Being able to count on those closest to us resonates feelings of love and appreciation.

However, achieving a family environment that is happy, healthy, and loving this isn’t always so easy. And arguments and the occasional “head-butting” certainly occur in most families.

Your parents may be helping you through college, for example, but may still argue with you about financial situations such as getting a part time job while attending school.[2] This could stem from many things such as guilt, miscommunication, or simply a bad day.

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The thing is: it’s completely normal to have conflicts.

But what separates happy and unhappy family dynamics are the ways in which conflicts and arguments are handled, as well as the severity of arguments.

Achieving this level of happiness isn’t always easy. In fact, dissecting exactly why a family feels unhappy is quite the endeavor. Think about the following: how constant are conflicts? What about miscommunications and arguments over minor stuff?

The only way to be happy is to comprehend where sources of unhappiness lie.

It’s important to be conscious of these types of unhappy tendencies. This is an important first step.

When unhappy families start to really comprehend and adjust their lifestyles, everyone wins. Family members experiencing difficulties are more apt to reaching out in times of need if they are confident that their relatives will respond with love and compassion. Additionally, most day to day activities are easier and more enjoyable when we feel overall, happy.

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Every family defines happiness differently.

It’s true that happy families are the closest families, but they are not all alike.[3] This is because many family’s definitions of happiness differ. Some family groups require frequent dinners and rituals like game nights, and others are content with regular phone calls and the occasional family reunion.

Consider picking up a book on the subject of happiness! A relevant book, 100 Simple Secrets of Happy Families: What Scientists Have Learned and How You Can Use It[4] gives a great deal of insight into family happiness.

An article by Time highlights the top 20 secrets from this book:[5]

  • Where you live does matter—the happiness of a community segues into family happiness.
  • Open communication is a must for all families.
  • Tell the family story—knowledge family history radiates happiness and family pride.
  • To communicate values to kids, focus on closeness, not lectures.
  • You’re a role model to kids—always keep that in mind.
  • You must always be open to change.
  • We love those who show love—make sure care and kindness are reciprocated.
  • They need you to be positive, especially when times are tough.
  • History beats apology—don’t be overly apologetic.
  • Try to be fair, not right or correct.
  • The secret to great work/life balance is a feeling of control—take charge of your work schedule if possible.
  • Discussing tough subjects makes everything easier in the long run.
  • Happiness is determined by what you think about most—try your best to focus on the positives and combat the negatives.
  • Family rituals matter—sit down and have dinner together on the regular and plan activities you all enjoy!
  • Kids that pick their activities enjoy school—if they are interested, let them play sports or in band or anything else.
  • Separate your work and family life.
  • Coping with in-laws is worth it.
  • Pets help create more happiness.
  • Kids need more than just mom and dad—all family members are important!
  • Anyone can have a happy family—we are all capable of happiness if we are willing to work for it.

And to reiterate, planning family rituals and activities truly strengthens family bonds and creates a great deal of happiness. To strengthen the family bonding, plan quality time and fun things to do together.[6]

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Happiness can’t always be attained overnight. For some families it may be easy and others must make a conscious effort to change and become happier. The following resources will be very advantageous to your happiness and your family’s merriment.

Seek family counseling to radiate happiness in the family.

For families that are far from happy, the best solution is oftentimes through outsourced efforts of family counseling. It truly helps to have another person who is professionally trained weigh in and offer help and support.

Families around the world all find benefits from family counseling. This is a form of happiness “assistance.” These types of counseling services are fairly easy to access in places like the United States but must continue to progress across the globe. This is why family counseling and social work on a global scale are important.[7] Every family deserves to be as happy as possible, and counselors and social workers are the key!

Communication, communication, communication!

One of the biggest pitfalls to happiness for families is miscommunication. Communication is an absolute must for all types of relationships to thrive, especially families. Family counselors also assist in communication efforts. A post by Wake Forest University elaborates:[8]

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“Without communication, one child’s emotional challenges can grow into a variety of behavioral problems that affect many more people than the individual; without an opportunity to express these feelings, contributing factors might never even be properly identified. Individual therapy often begins with the counselor helping the patient to increase self awareness.”

Counseling helps ensure that the voices of all members of a family are heard. Sometimes it’s harder than it should be to just listen to each other and communicate effectively. Fortunately, family counseling helps!

And take the following bits of advice to heart:[9]

  • To build strong family relationships, listen actively to each other.
  • Use “I” messages rather than “You” messages when talking.
  • Encourage all family members to share their thoughts and feelings.
  • Strong families spend time together.
  • Strong families handle their conflict fairly.
  • Strong families develop trust.

What works best for you and your family? What do you and your family do to maintain and happy and healthy relationship? Share with us!

Reference

More by this author

Robert Parmer

Freelance Writer

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Last Updated on October 30, 2019

How the Stages of Change Model Helps You Change Your Habits

How the Stages of Change Model Helps You Change Your Habits

Change is tough, there’s no doubt about it. Old habits are hard to shift, and adopting a new lifestyle can feel like an uphill battle!

In this article, you will learn about a simple yet powerful model:

Stages of change model, that explains the science behind personal transformation.

You’ll discover how and why some changes stick whereas others don’t last, and how long it takes to build new habits.

What is the Stages of Change Model?

Developed by researchers J.O. Prochaska and Carlo C. DiClemente over 30 years ago[1] and outlined in their book Changing For Good, the Stages of Change Model, also known as the Transtheoretical Model, was formed as a result of the authors’ research with smokers.

Prochaska and DiClemente were originally interested in the question of why some smokers were able to quit on their own, whereas others required professional help. Their key conclusion was that smokers (or anyone else with a bad habit) quits only when they are ready to do so.

Here’s an illustration done by cartoonist and illustrator Simon Kneebone about the different stages a smoker experiences when they try to quit smoking:

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    The Stages of Change Model looks at how these conscious decisions are made. It emphasizes that change isn’t easy. People can spend a long time stuck in a stage, and some may never reach their goals.[2]

    The model has been applied in the treatment of smoking, alcoholism, and drugs. It is also a useful way of thinking about any bad habit. Social workers, therapists, and psychologists draw on the model to understand their patients’ behaviors, and to explain the change process to the patients themselves.

    The key advantages to the model is that it is simple to understand, is backed by extensive research, and can be applied in many situations.

    The Stages of Change Model is a well-established psychological model that outlines six stages of personal change:

    1. Precontemplation
    2. Contemplation
    3. Determination
    4. Action
    5. Maintenance
    6. Termination

    How are these stages relevant to changing habits?

    To help you visualize the stages of change and how each progresses to the next one, please take a look at this wheel:[3]

      Let’s look at the six stages of change,[4] together with an example that will show you how the model works in practice:

      Stage 1: Precontemplation

      At this stage, an individual does not plan to make any positive changes in the next six months. This may because they are in denial about their problem, feel too overwhelmed to deal with it, or are too discouraged after multiple failed attempts to change.

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      For example, someone may be aware that they need to start exercising, but cannot find the motivation to do so. They might keep thinking about the last time they tried (and failed) to work out regularly. Only when they start to realize the advantages of making a change will they progress to the next stage.

      Stage 2: Contemplation

      At this stage, the individual starts to consider the advantages of changing. They start to acknowledge that altering their habits would probably benefit them, but they spend a lot of time thinking about the downside of doing so. This stage can last for a long time – possibly a year or more.

      You can think of this as the procrastinating stage. For example, an individual begins to seriously consider the benefits of regular exercise, but feels resistant when they think about the time and effort involved. When the person starts putting together a concrete plan for change, they move to the next stage.

      The key to moving from this stage to the next is the transformation of an abstract idea to a belief (e.g. from “Exercise is a good, sensible thing to do” to “I personally value exercise and need to do it.)[5]

      Stage 3: Preparation

      At this point, the person starts to put a plan in place. This stage is brief, lasting a few weeks. For example, they may book a session with a personal trainer and enrol on a nutrition course.

      Someone who drinks to excess may make an appointment with a drug and alcohol counsellor; someone with a tendency to overwork themselves might start planning ways to devise a more realistic schedule.

      Stage 4: Action

      When they have decided on a plan, the individual must then put it into action. This stage typically lasts for several months. In our example, the person would begin attending the gym regularly and overhauling their diet.

      Stage 4 is the stage at which the person’s desire for change becomes noticeable to family and friends. However, in truth, the change process began a long time ago. If someone you know seems to have suddenly changed their habits, it’s probably not so sudden after all! They will have progressed through Stages 1-3 first – you probably just didn’t know about it.

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      Stage 5: Maintenance

      After a few months in the Action stage, the individual will start to think about how they can maintain their changes, and make lifestyle adjustments accordingly. For instance, someone who has adopted the habit of regular workouts and a better diet will be vigilant against old triggers (such as eating junk food during a stressful time at work) and make a conscious decision to protect their new habits.

      Unless someone actively engages with Stage 5, their new habits are liable to come unstuck. Someone who has stuck to their new habits for many months – perhaps a year or longer – may enter Stage 6.

      Maintenance can be challenging because it entails coming up with a new set of habits to lock change in place. For instance, someone who is maintaining their new gym-going habit may have to start improving their budgeting skills in order to continue to afford their gym membership.

      Stage 6: Termination

      Not many people reach this stage, which is characterized by a complete commitment to the new habit and a certainty that they will never go back to their old ways. For example, someone may find it hard to imagine giving up their gym routine, and feel ill at the thought of eating junk food on a regular basis.

      However, for the majority of people, it’s normal to stay in the Maintenance period indefinitely. This is because it takes a long time for a new habit to become so automatic and natural that it sticks forever, with little effort. To use another example, an ex-smoker will often find it hard to resist the temptation to have “just one” cigarette even a year or so after quitting. It can take years for them to truly reach the Termination stage, at which point they are no more likely to smoke than a lifelong non-smoker.

      How long does each stage take?

      You should be aware that some people remain in the same stage for months or even years at a time. Understanding this model will help you be more patient with yourself when making a change. If you try to force yourself to jump from Contemplation to Maintenance, you’ll just end up frustrated. On the other hand, if you take a moment to assess where you are in the change process, you can adapt your approach.

      So if you need to make changes quickly and you are finding it hard to progress to the next stage, it’s probably time to get some professional help or adopt a new approach to forming habits.

      The limitations of this model

      The model is best applied when you decide in advance precisely what you want to achieve, and know exactly how you will measure it (e.g. number of times per week you go to the gym, or number of cigarettes smoked per day). Although the model has proven useful for many people, it does have limitations.

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      Require the ability to set a realistic goal

      For a start, there are no surefire ways of assessing whereabouts in the process you are – you just have to be honest with yourself and use your own judgement. Second, it assumes that you are physically capable of making a change, whereas in fact you might either need to adjust your goals or seek professional help.

      If your goal isn’t realistic, it doesn’t matter whether you follow the stages – you still won’t get results. You need to decide for yourself whether your aims are reasonable.[6]

      Difficult to judge your progress

      The model also assumes that you are able to objectively measure your own successes and failures, which may not always be the case.[7] For instance, let’s suppose that you are trying to get into the habit of counting calories as part of your weight-loss efforts. However, even though you may think that you are recording your intake properly, you might be over or under-estimating.

      Research shows that most people think they are getting enough exercise and eating well, but in actual fact aren’t as healthy as they believe. The model doesn’t take this possibility into account, meaning that you could believe yourself to be in the Action stage yet aren’t seeing results. Therefore, if you are serious about making changes, it may be best to get some expert advice so that you can be sure the changes you are making really will make a positive difference.

      Conclusion

      The Stages Of Change Model can be a wonderful way to understand change in both yourself and others.

      While there’re some limitations in it, the Stages of Change Model helps to visualize how you go through changes so you know what to expect when you’re trying to change a habit or make some great changes in life.

      Start by identifying one of your bad habits. Where are you in the process? What could you do next to move forwards?

      Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

      Reference

      [1] Psych Central: Stages Of Change
      [2] Boston University School Of Public Health: The Transtheoretical Model (Stages Of Change)
      [3] Empowering Change: Stages of Change
      [4] Boston University School Of Public Health: The Transtheoretical Model (Stages Of Change)
      [5] Psychology Today: 5 Steps To Changing Any Behavior
      [6] The Transtheoretical Model: Limitations Of The Transtheoretical Model
      [7] Health Education Research: Transtheoretical Model & Stages Of Change: A Critique

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