After three children, one divorce, re-marriage, and a great deal of walking on egg-shells, I often wonder what makes a really happy family. The following definitions come from my own experience and those of friends. (Plus, of course, my latest novel Happy Families.)
Laughing together, even when there doesn't seem much to laugh about.
Doing things together. My youngest son and I started a weekend bowling tradition when we were on our own.
Spending time together. My children and I go away together once a year without any other adults. It's our bonding time.
Making time for each other even when you're racing against the clock. Yesterday, I had to get up at 6am in order to finish a deadline as one of my sons needed me to drop off two heavy speakers for his band later in the day - which was when I had been planning to work!
Cooking together. Leads to laughter where my culinary skills are involved.
Trying not to involve them in adult problems.
Giving the children a certain amount of responsibility so they learn to stand on their own two feet. But also still being there for them. This applies to all ages.
Telling each other stories. It brings people together. I often tell my children stories about my childhood. I've also always encouraged them to make up stories.
Limit nagging. Increase praise where it's due. Vital for self- esteem.
Teaching each other to be grateful for small things. One of my friends always asks her children, at bedtime, to tell her about the 'best thing' that's happened that day. I think that's lovely.
Encouraging courtesy and manners from all age groups. It leads to a nicer atmosphere.
Not expecting your children to be just like you or their brothers/sisters. We're all different.
Teaching them that when things go wrong, it's all right. Even if it doesn't seem that way. I once interviewed the agony aunt Claire Rayner on helpful sayings. She came up with the following. 'All things must pass.' That means the bad stuff won't go on for ever. However, you also have to make the most of the good times. It's a saying that has really helped my family.
If anyone would like to add their own definitions of a happy family, please email me via janeyfraser.co.uk, and I'll put a selection on the website. I'll send a free copy of my new book to anyone whose saying goes on the website.
Janey Fraser always dreamed of writing novels. After a career in women's magazines interviewing celebrities, Janey wrote several non-fiction books about childcare. She has also written a series of children's books. Janey has appeared live on breakfast television, talking about her books, and has also been on numerous radio programmes, including Woman's Hour and The Learning Curve. She also writes short stories for magazines, runs writing courses, and is a regular speaker at literary festivals, including Winchester and Guildford. Her recent hobby is belly dancing, much to the horror of her children. However, Janey firmly believes that embarrassing one's offspring is a perk of the job. Find out more at www.janeyfraser.co.uk.