After almost three decades of helping families negotiate ways of living happily ever after under the same roof, I’ve found myself offering the same five tips over and over again. I’d like to share them with you too and hope that you will be inspired to discuss them as a family and then cut and post them on the fridge or a bulletin board where every one can reference them from time to time.
If you spend the next few days observing the roots of conflict between family members in your home, you might notice that much of it can be traced back to the issues that inspired these five tips. They are not meant as a means to reprimand your family members but as a springboard towards working together as a team. My advice, when sharing them over dinner or a family meeting, would be ask everyone for his or her co operation or agreement before assuming that he or she will jump on board. If one or more family members are resistant to working on this together, then you may want to have a discussion about roadblocks initially and then, If members are still unwilling, you may want to think about what his or her unwillingness means to you and your family and how you’re going to tackle it.
HelpMeSara’s five tips towards happily ever after:
- Don’t take what’s not yours without asking for permission from the owner first
- Finish what you start, and if you can’t, ask another family member for help or let others know when you will be back to finish it (and then follow through)
- Leave “things” the way that you found them
- Put things back where you took them from as soon as you move from one activity to the next (unless you plan on coming back to complete the task within 24 hours and then put it back)
- When you bring new “stuff” into the house, make sure to find a proper spot for it or put it away in its “home” by the end of the day
Examples for each of the above might include:
- One of your children takes and wears clothing out of a sibling’s closet without asking. This is not a respectful way to co habit with another person, sibling or otherwise.
- Your spouse leaves his breakfast dishes in the sink and cutting board on the counter. You may not mind cleaning up after him, but its always appreciated when you are asked for help rather than his assuming that you will pick up where he left off.
- Your teen has unfolded a blanket to snuggle under while watching TV at night and then left it lying on the floor when she went up to bed. When you come downstairs the next morning, you see the blanket on the floor and this may trigger anger in you (“why do I always have to pick up after everyone?”) which may lead to conflict with your teen.
- You removed scissors from their “home” (the kitchen drawer) to work on a project and then left them in another room. When you (or someone else) want to use them another time, it may take some time to remember where they were left, leading to feelings of frustration and a delay in getting things done.
- Even a piece of paper (receipt, credit card statement) left any old place can lead to piles of clutter and conflict between spouses. For example, when you realize that a bill hasn’t been paid in time because it wasn’t filed in the proper place. Or if you don’t know where to look for all your receipts when it comes time to gather them for income taxes, this can lead to conflict and frustration. Instead, create a receipt box or a statement folder so that everything can be filed away and found with ease later on. Managing items as soon as they come into the house saves a lot of time in the long run and leads to increased harmony because things are in order.
Along with these five tips towards living happily ever after, don’t forget to make time for laughter and having fun together. When your work is done (or even if you take a break from it), spend time together creating memories that will last a lifetime. Board game nights, popcorn and Netflix chills or walking outside in good weather all contribute towards family members wanting to work together as a team.