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How to Raise Happy Kids on a Shoestring
One thing I have learned during my many years as a parent is that raising happy kids has nothing to do with how much money you make. There is no relationship whatsoever with affluence and joy. That is not to say that if you are well off your kids will be miserable, but I am addressing here those parents who feel deprived because they think they can't give their kids the things that they would like to have. It never works to buy your kids' way to happiness. There are ways, though, whether you have plenty or next to nothing, to ensure that you and your children will remain a happy, united family.
Do Things Together
A family is all about unity, but you don't have to take an excursion to an expensive theme park to feel united. One of the best things you can do is have a picnic together. Make some sandwiches, grab some fruit and drinks – and don't forget to bring the Frisbee or the football or whatever else you like to play with before or after the meal. Go somewhere free like a park or a forest or a beach and enjoy yourselves. Play hide-and-seek. Take photos, because you will look back years later and realize that these were some of the greatest moments of the times when you were all together. But... Don't have a car? Don't have the gas? No place nearby you can picnic? Toss the football or Frisbee in the yard or on a nearby patch of grass. Play board games. The main thing is to enjoy each other's company.
Have Special Occasions
Holidays and birthdays are for family, and if they were not so in the past you can create family traditions. Whatever holidays you celebrate, have certain things that you do each year that your kids will remember and look forward to. And I'm not talking about the giving of presents. You can do it if you want, and it is fun especially when the children are young, but it is not obligatory in order to have a good time. When our first kids were young we were poor, and we couldn't afford to spend more than a few dollars each on Christmas or birthday presents. They enjoyed opening those little token gifts, of course, but they enjoyed even more the holiday meal together, or the birthday cake, or a walk to see the town festivities.
Keep in Touch With Relatives
Relatives are very important for family unity. Stay close, at least figuratively, to grandparents and aunts and uncles and cousins and arrange visits whenever you can. Gatherings of relatives can sometimes be odd or chaotic affairs, but nevertheless they imbue a feeling of unity, a feeling that your children are all a part of a greater whole. In addition, cousins often turn out to be best friends as well. And as a teacher I have often heard testimonies from lonely only-children that they would gladly give up their privacy and material possessions if they could have brothers or sisters or spend more time with relatives.
Be Polite With One Another
Encourage good manners in your house. Politeness is always unifying and joy-inducing. However, when your children forget to be polite, or even deliberately rebel, do not punish them for their oversight or disobedience. Instead, continue to be courteous yourselves, as parents, so that eventually they will follow your good example. When parents and children have respect for each other, it produces a deep sense of satisfaction, security, and happiness for which there is no substitute.
Most of us wish we had more money so that we could ease the burden of debt and buy our loved ones more of what they want or need. And there's nothing wrong with working hard to secure your loved ones' necessities. However, there is no direct link between finances and the happiness of your family. The sooner you realize this, the sooner you and your family will experience ongoing happiness on your way to a more emotionally-affluent future.