Families come in all shapes and sizes. It doesn’t matter what your family looks like, so long as it provides a solid and loving base for your children. But a happy, well-functioning family doesn’t just happen – it takes a bit of effort.
Families that work well
Thinking about how you’d like your family to work is called family management. Some parents fear that family management will kill off spontaneity – quite the opposite. In fact, you will probably have more time and energy for impulsive outings or activities.
The benefits of family management also include:
- bringing family members closer together
- making it easier for grown-ups and children to talk
- making everyone more organised and less stressed
- making the most of precious time and finances
- helping grown-ups deal with the way children behave
- providing a way of passing on your family values
- helping children develop important social skills for life
- helping your family find more time to have fun together.
Here are some ideas for basic family management:
Communication: it’s important to talk through family issues with all family members, including children.
Affection, positive attention and family time: everyone in the family needs to feel loved and valued. Make sure your children – and your partner – receive lots of encouragement, positive feedback and signs of affection. It’s also important to make time every week to do things as a family – even a short walk or a visit to the park can help bring you together.
Routines: consider your daily routines and figure out what system works best for all members of the family. Routines make children feel safe and secure, and can make the busy times of day less stressful for everyone.
Sharing tasks: think about how you can divide up jobs so everyone is happy.
Preferred reactions: talk about how you would like everyone to respond to difficult or challenging situations like tiredness, an upset child or financial pressures.
Social life: think about ways everyone in the family can meet their needs for a social life.
Routines and rituals
Routines and rituals can give family members a sense of consistency and security and can help to make family members feel like they belong.
Routines are those planned and recurring activities that help keep the home running smoothly. They include things that need to be done at the same time most days, like getting dressed for school or having a bath.
Routines can help your family spend more time together. For example, setting the table and washing the dishes with your children gives you the chance to have a chat at the same time.
Research tells us that children are healthier and manage their behaviour better when they have predictable routines.
Rituals are moments and activities that are special and unique to your family. They can be simple things, like reading bedtime stories, playing games or going camping during school holidays. Rituals give everyone a sense of history and belonging.
Research shows that rituals can strengthen your family’s values and help pass these values on to your children.
If household jobs are shared, the burden is lighter on everyone. Sharing household chores with your children can help them feel important and valued members of the family
You could write up a chart that outlines who does what and when. Then, down the track, hold an informal family meeting to see how everyone is finding the plan. This will also give you a chance to praise your children for their achievements, or suggest better ways of doing jobs.
Managing family finances
If your finances are causing you stress, there are some simple things you can do to manage your money better. A simple way to budget is to ask your employer to deposit your money into two accounts, one that you use for household and child expenses, and another for everyday cash spending.
Setting a realistic budget may help you gain more control over your finances and show where you need to make changes to your lifestyle. If you can create a plan for managing your money, you may be able to save for family holidays and reduce your debts.
Video Managing your finances
In this video, financial expert Paul Clitheroe discusses basic strategies to help with the financial burden of raising children. Also, parents talk about coping with changed financial circumstances.
The video includes tips on:
- budgeting and planning
- using the baby bonus
- borrowing baby goods
- prioritising needs over wants
- making sacrifices to keep income greater than or equal to expenses.