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on September 16, 2009
Remember the scene in Robin William's movie, "The Birdcage," during which the right-wing parents of the fiancé of Armand's son are faced with his two mothers ... one biological (a female) and the other the drag-queen companion of his father? "Which one is your mother?" they ask. When many of us think of families, we think of the traditional "Leave it to Beaver" family ... father, mother, and children. But today there are so many other kinds of families ... grandparents raising grandchildren, foster families, adoptive families, same-sex couples, and so on. The great thing about this book is that the advice in it applies to any family, defined by Dr. Haltzman as "two or more people committed to sharing their life together who are related by blood, adoption, marriage or cohabitation, legal decree, or personal devotion."

After defining "family", Dr. Haltzman goes on to define happiness and gives us his eight secrets to the enduring happy family. Secret one, Stick Together, which isn't just about divorce but also includes how to set your family values and creating a family document ... The Family Mission Statement. We have one at work ... why not have one at home? Once you have established your family values, you'll move on to communication, teaching and learning from children, blending, handling conflict, bouncing back, breathing, and evolving.

Happy families don't just happen because two people fall in love and procreate. To continue our happiness, we must establish our values and become adept at nurturing our relationships. Know someone who can't stand their mother, father, or kids? It happens all the time. This book will teach you how to stop those conflicts in their tracks and put your family life on the right track to continuing happiness.
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on February 26, 2010
As an Author, Coach, and Motivational Speaker I read a lot of books about people, their motivations, and their relationships. "The Secrets of Happy Families" by Dr. Scott Haltzman and Teresa Foy DiGeronimo gets an A+ for writing with clarity and humor, an A for stories that engage the reader, and an A+ for the valuable lessons provided.

Dr. Haltzman begins by setting expectations about what a family is, going way beyond the traditional nuclear family of 2 parents and 2.5 children to include the single parent family, extended family, blended family, adopted family, foster family, etc. Coming from a blended family with a father married 6 times impacting 21 children and having a more traditional family with 2 parents and 2 children I was interested to see what secrets he could share to make my family a happy family.

In chapter 2 Dr. Haltzman defines happiness and identifies a number of circumstances and behaviors that can impact the happiness of families. He ends the chapter with this line "by proactively shaping the family life you desire, that life can be yours. Read on."

Secret #1: Happy Families Stick Together. Dr. Haltzman creates context with a values matrix to help you identify a shared understanding of what's important to your family, and each of the people in your family. He then helps you create a family mission statement as a powerful bond that helps the family stick together.

Secret #2: Happy Families Commit and Communicate. Dr. Haltzman identifies what "committed" means. He identifies 3 stages in a relationship and what it takes to stay committed in each stage. Communication through words and action is the top-secret of happy families. Gender differences can create conflict or you can embrace the differences.

Secret #3: Happy Families Lean. Happy families look to each other for support and that support is returned. Dr. Haltzman says" a secret of happy families is that they abide by the code of support and caring even if it's at the cost of personal convenience or comfort". Another key is to identify friends and organizations that can support, encourage, and champion your marriage.

Secret #4: Happy Families Teach to and Learn from Children. Children divide your attention, take time, are expensive, are loud and messy, will challenge your beliefs, and are individuals that won't always share your beliefs, values, hopes, and desires. On the positive side children can bring joys to your family and give you love. Haltzman shares valuable lessons in disciplining children. I love how the lessons learned in his research into the behavior of rats can be applied to disciplining our children. His story of dealing with his daughter Alena reinforces his message that conflicting issues affect our decisions as parents, we need to take them into account, and make the best decision we can.

Secret #5: Happy Families Blend. In this chapter Dr. Haltzman identifies types of blended families and walks through the 5 step process they go through: hopefulness, confusion, crisis, stability, and finally a shared commitment. He also provides strategies and techniques to create a successful blended family.

Secret #6: Happy Families Handle Conflict. Dr. Haltzman shares 5 basic fair fight facts:

1. All couples fight.
2. We all need to be heard.
3. We need to treat each other with respect to survive conflict.
4. A hostile start results in a harsh and.
5. The fight must be over by bedtime.

I don't know if I agree with #5 five but the 1st 4 I find absolutely true. Sometimes you just have to agree to disagree. Dr. Haltzman reinforces work by Dr. John Gottman identifying 4 powerful behaviors that can predict a failed relationship; criticism, defensiveness, stonewalling, and contempt. Happy families limit use of these behaviors, deal with conflict, and bounce back

Secret #7: Happy Families Bounce. It's easy to be a happy family when things are going well, but when things are going bad you can still be a happy family. The key is resiliency. Dr. Haltzman provides keys for actively coping with family challenges.

Dr. Haltzman wraps up his book with "Happy Families Evolve." He says "my hope is that by spending time reading this book and learning how all the individuals within a family give happiness to each other, you'll be inspired to make a conscious effort to give happiness to everyone in your family, and will then in turn enjoy the happiness they give back to you or the rest of your life."

I highly recommend The Secrets of Happy Families. You'll find powerful lessons to create your Happy Family.

Kevin Decker
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on August 15, 2009
The Secrets of Happy Families is all that it is advertised to be! Dr. Haltzman begins the book by exploring the definition of family, and has an inspiring and educational chapter about happiness (did you know that people that win the lottery don't end up being any happier in life and people who become paralyzed?).

I found Haltzman's division of family happiness into eight "keys" extremely helpful. For instance, on his chapter called "commit and communicate" he talks about the importance of maintaining a stable family for the growth of the child. This seems like common sense, but the fact is that it is politically incorrect to say that people should marry because it's better for children. Other chapters talk about dealing with conflict, step families, values, and resiliency.

What was most impressive about this was Dr. Haltzman's use of humor. He seems to be saying that we should take a families seriously, but not so seriously that we are not able to enjoy all of the highs and lows that are part of being a family. The book gave me good ideas about how to enjoy fun and meaningful activities when I get together with my family. And how to argue less.

I am eager to read Dr. Haltzman's other books because he seems to be a voice of reason and humor when other authors are either sanctimonious, boring, or banal.
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on December 9, 2009
I'm a big Haltzman fan, after his "Happily Married Men" book The Secrets of Happily Married Men: Eight Ways to Win Your Wife's Heart Forever. I didn't know whether there would be an overlap between this book and the men's book, but they complimented each other, and didn't overlap at all.

It's hard to believe a psychiatirst could be so straightforward and funny, and also humanistic and kind. There are important aspects to this book. One, it's straightforward (although a tad too theoretical for my tastes in the beginning). Two, it's practical. Three, it covers a very broad range of topics on families (conflict, communication, child rearing, and things like holidays and traditions). Four, it's really easy reading, more like a novel than like a "how to" book.
The real-life stories helped illustrate his points.

I'd recommend to people who are dealing with some sort of family crisis, whowant to improve family communication, or for step-families.
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on June 23, 2009
Scott Haltzman is a leader in the field of relationships and marriage - and this is obvious when you read this book. As in his other two books, he again writes with a blend of warmth, humor and intellect. The main thrust of the Happy Families book is that families come in all shapes and sizes. I especially appreciate how he starts the book asking us to define values. So few people do that, and, when you think about it, how can you make any decisions about how your life with your family will be until you figure out what you stand for? What follows is excellent advice and GREAT stories about people who give to others, parents fighting for their children, and couples slugging their way through therapy learning how to talk to each other. There is also a section on blended families, which is SORELY needed. I am buying this book for everyone I know!

Holly Hollenbeck, Attorney, Speaker ([...]
and the Author of Sex Lives of Wives: Reigniting the Passion
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VINE VOICEon September 29, 2010
This book surpassed all of my expectations! It is more of an instruction manual having all that one needs to get through most any situation. The information is easy to understand and put into practice. Since babies don't come with instruction manuals, I suggest all new parents get this book as a parenting guide. Reading this book will save you so much time, trouble and energy - it's destined to be a best seller! Kudos to Dr. Haltzman for explaining how easy it is to find and maintain true happines for families of every size and variety and in building relationships of every kind.
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on June 21, 2009
Very few of us have healthy role models when it comes to family life. We often settle for mediocrity and repeat the unhealthy behavior of our parents. We learn destructive patterns from watching friends, neighbors, and TV sitcoms. "The Secrets of Happy Families" is a breath of fresh air! It offers sound advice on how to have a loving family, and I agree with the author that the best gift you can give your kids is to have a loving marriage. Thank you, Dr. Scott, for writing another wonderful book to help lower the divorce rate and equip us to preserve our families and have fulfilling marriages!
--Jenna D. Barry, author of "A Wife's Guide to In-laws: How to Gain Your Husband's Loyalty Without Killing His Parents"
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on June 25, 2009
Virtually all important aspects of family issues are discussed and augmented with case histories. The book is a pleasure to read and bound to add an extra dose of insight to any family with its common sesne aproach. The appendix offers survey summaries which are revealing!
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on July 4, 2009
My husband, who is a rabbi, uses this book in his work with couples. It is a good "study guide" in building relationships that last. It is very readable and makes the points clearly and understandably. Makes a great gift.
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on July 11, 2009
Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way" wrote Leo Tolstoy.

In The Secrets of Happy Families, Dr. Haltzman shows why this is true and reveals that the secrets of happy families are not complicated. On the contrary - they share ways of interacting that keep them connected and caring about each other from childhood on.

Easy to read and follow, this book will help family members take a breath, count their blessings and realize that the bonds that connect them can be nourished and sustained. A wonderful book to read and pull down from the shelf for reference through the years.
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