I’m Dr Lucy Russell, child clinical psychologist and mum of two teenagers.
In this article I want to introduce you to a simple technique which will help you have a strong and happy family.
I often use it with my family, either to deal with a specific problem that has cropped up, or when things feel generally stressful or difficult.
After taking you through this amazing strategy, I’ll also include my free 30 day happiness challenge pdf worksheet for you to download and print. You’ll find it at the bottom of the article!
Happy Family: What Does That Look Like?
A happy family is one where all family members feel loved and safe.
It means having mostly positive interactions and communication with each other.
A happy family is a place where individuals can grow, learn, and thrive together.
What Makes a Happy Family?
Shared experiences, traditions, and a sense of belonging can grow happiness in a family.
Family members must also have strong communication and be able to repair conflict successfully. Each member feels heard, understood, and respected.
Happy families also have a healthy balance between individuality and togetherness.
How Do You Know if You Have a Happy Family?
- When you enjoy spending time with your family.
- If family members can communicate and express their needs and feelings openly and respectfully.
- If your family is supportive and helps you grow as an individual.
Spend some time reflecting on each question.
Remember, family life can be very complex and no family feels happy all the time.
Family Life: A Solution-Focused Approach to a Happy Family
Clinical psychologists (like me) are trained in a number of types of therapy. One approach we often use is called brief solution focused therapy.
Brief solution focused therapy can be massively helpful when we are looking for clear and positive solutions to our troubles.
The basic premise is that when we make the first steps to a happier family life, we have to imagine how that life will look.
Happy Family: The Power of Positivity
Within brief solution focused therapy, there is one particular technique that can be so powerful, I have devoted most of this article to it! It is called “The Miracle Question”.
The miracle question is a technique that invites you to describe, in detail, how family life will be different when the problem is no longer present.
I’m not saying you should ignore negative feelings and “just be positive”.
But this specific positive strategy is going to help you imagine your best possible family life.
Once you imagine it, you will consciously and unconsciously take steps towards it.
A Happy Family: The Miracle Question
The miracle question is actually more than one question!
Take a first look at the miracle question, but do not rush to answer it…yet.
Imagine… You and your family go to bed as normal, and sleep peacefully. In the middle of the night, a miracle happens.
The main problem that your family had has gone away.
You don’t know that the problem has gone away, when you first wake up.
There is a gradual realisation that life is better.
What is the first thing you notice?…
What is the next thing you notice?…
Think about all your senses. What will you see, taste, feel? Go into as much detail as you can…
Who will be next in the family to notice the miracle? What will they notice first?
How To Have a Happy Family: Your Turn To Answer the Miracle Question
Take some time out of your day when you will not be disturbed. It will take you half an hour or so to really answer the miracle question.
Now think about what method you are going to use to answer the question. here are some examples:
- Make a written list.
- Draw or sketch your thoughts.
- Record your thoughts on your phone’s “voice memo” app.
Next, return to the miracle question above.
Use your imagination to really explore your desired happy family life. I want you to feel the answer to the miracle question – to experience it, not just to think about it.
Use of art can really bring this technique alive, so do consider sketching your “desired world”, even if art is not normally your thing.
If you are using verbal or written language, pay careful attention to keeping it positive. You should think about what you do want, rather than what you don’t want.
For example: “My husband will be respectful of my opinions”, rather than “my husband will stop putting me down”.
Once you have gained a glimpse of your desired future, you might distill your thoughts into a few main ideas or points.
Happy Family: Watching Changes Start to Happen
The positive approach of the miracle question takes your focus away from the problem and towards solutions.
By pinpointing exactly what you are looking for, you automatically make steps to a happy family life.
Your new, clearer vision of desired family life will be imprinted in your conscious and subconscious.
Little changes will start to happen.
You will begin to notice when events match your desired family life. For example, when Erin and Rowan co-operate to make breakfast together in the example above.
You will also begin to nudge family life towards these positive events. For example, creating opportunities for Erin and Rowan to co-operate on a task.
My philosophy is that small changes will make a big difference to your family life over time.
Maintaining a Happy Family Life: Review and Re-visit The Miracle Question
How did it go? Review your answers regularly – perhaps once a week – and see if changes are beginning to manifest.
You may even want to keep a “Miracle Question Diary”.
Has anyone else in the family noticed differences?
How about anyone outside the family?
I hope you have enjoyed reading about the miracle question and that it is the first of your steps to a happy family life. For more expert advice and techniques, check out Brighter Futures, a guide to family emotional wellbeing written by me and five of my colleagues.
TAKE THE QUIZ!
Happy Family Life: The 30 Day Happiness Challenge
Sometimes we need a reminder that the simplest pleasures in life can make us happy.
Of course family life is complex, but revisiting basics helps us cut though that complexity.
The activities in my 30 day challenge pdf are great for parents, teenagers and younger children alike. Even better, why not do some of the activities together?
You don’t have to tick off one item per day. You could see how many you can tick off in a week, or just use the happiness challenge as a gentle guide each month.
Download Your 30 Day Happiness Challenge PDF HERE
How To Have a Happy Family: Summary
Sometimes the simplest of ideas can create that all-important shift that gets you on the road to a happy family life.
I have seen this happen so many times over the years during my therapy sessions with children and families, that I wanted to share it more widely.
Follow my instructions to answer the miracle question for your family. Then watch as signs of a happier family life emerge over the following weeks.
The happiness challenge is another great way of pulling together as a family and focusing on your positives to create a happy family life.
Family Life: If You Need More Help
Sometimes, a complex family difficulties need more than the miracle question, and expert help is needed.
If you have concerns about your child’s mental health (or your own), you should speak to your family doctor or healthcare provider about accessing the support of a psychologist, family therapist or other mental health professional.
Dr Lucy Russell is a UK clinical psychologist who works with children and families. Her work involves both therapeutic support and autism assessments. She is the Clinical Director of Everlief Child Psychology, and also worked in the National Health Service for many years. In 2019 Lucy launched They Are The Future, a support website for parents of school-aged children.
Through TATF Lucy is passionate about giving practical, manageable strategies to parents and children who may otherwise struggle to find the support they need.
Lucy is a mum to two teenage children. She lives in Buckinghamshire with her husband, children, rescue dog and three rescue cats. She enjoys caravanning and outdoor living, singing and musical theatre.
Join They Are The Future’s free Facebook group for regular tips and great ideas to support teens and pre-teens with their mental health! Join the group: Parent Tips for Positive Child Mental Health UK.