The families with the highest happiness quotients are those who feel truly connected to each other, say experts. They make time to focus on one another -- listen to problems, share a much-needed hug. But there's growing concern that our gadget obsession may be fraying these all-important bonds IRL. In researching her book The Big Disconnect: Protecting Childhood and Family Relationships in the Digital Age, family therapist Catherine Steiner-Adair, EdD, interviewed more than 1,000 children and teenagers: "They talked about having to vie for their parents' attention with a screen. Kids recognize when we are disconnected from them." Her observations are borne out by a recent study in the journal Pediatrics. Almost three quarters of parents observed at Boston-area fast-food restaurants were reported to be using phones during the meal, and while they did, children often tried to get their attention.
No need to toss your iPhone, but do power down for regular screen-free time, especially during crucial moments like the morning rush. "You sound very different being interrupted when you're making eggs than when you're answering an e-mail from your boss," says Steiner-Adair. And keep reminding each other (adults and kids!): the key to happiness won't ever be found on that mesmerizing little screen.
The more families dine together, the less they whine together. "The more often families eat together, the less likely kids are to do drugs, smoke, get depressed, and ditch school, and the more likely they are to get good grades, look people in the eye, learn big words, and say 'please' and 'thank you,' " notes Kristen Race. To fit family dinners into a hectic schedule -- and make them count -- try these tips, then check out thefamilydinnerproject.org for more games and conversation starters.
Can paint choices lift the household atmosphere? "No question, color has an enormous effect on our well-being," says Leatrice Eiseman, executive director of the Pantone Color Institute, the organization that advises retailers and designers on color trends. We asked about the best hues for a happy home.
Originally published in the May 2015 issue of FamilyFun magazine.