I know that raising a happy, loving family is one of the most important things we will do in this lifetime. I didn’t have that growing up, and it’s something I want so badly for my own family.

Josh and I take pictures for a living: pictures of people in love getting married and pictures of families who love. And I know it sounds weird, but I truly believe that we have learned how to raise a happy, loving family from watching those families.

It takes a conscious effort, day in and day out, to make sure that the little people you adore so much know just how much you love them. It’s not easy work, but it’s oh, so rewarding. I’m already imagining our future; a future where all our kids and grandkids come for dinner every Sunday night, roadtrip caravans to the beach and summer barbecues, filled with laughter and love.

Here are five REAL ways you can show your kids you love them (in case that summer barbecue sounds right up your alley):

1. Tell them you love them and praise them often.

This sounds obvious. But you can never tell someone you love them too often. All people love to hear that they are important, and that they are doing things that make you happy. Think about the last time you praised your child for doing something right instead of scolded him for doing something wrong. That praise reinforces to your child that they are loved.

2. Really listen to your children.

When you’re having a conversation, make eye contact and listen to what your child is telling you. You will make her feel important and loved by focusing on her completely while she is telling you a story or asking for advice.

3. Be physically and mentally there for your kids as much as possible.

When you’re watching your son play soccer, watch the game and cheer him on. When you’re playing Go Fish with your daughter, put your cell phone away and just focus on the game. Kids intuitively know when your attention is elsewhere and that makes them feel less important to you. Put the focus on your kids and watch them soak it up!

4. Create habits and traditions that encourage family togetherness.

We’re getting busier and busier, which translates into less and less family time. Even with less time to spend together, you can still create a strong family bond that will extend through childhood into your kids’ adult years. Establish routines that will make up the culture of your family. Some of ours include our nightly snuggle chats—exactly what it sounds it like: a little bit of snuggling and a little bit of chatting—and our family dance parties in the kitchen. Family traditions are also great for strengthening the bond. We take our kids apple-picking every fall, we have a huge Halloween party, and we make a summer bucket list. All of these things help create memorable family experiences. And any time your kids are remembering a fun time you had together, it reinforces the idea that you love and adore them.

5. Encourage their dreams.

It’s really easy to get caught up in our own ideas of how our kids should live their lives. I know because I’m guilty of it. Instead of pushing your kids to do things you want them to do, give them the space and the encouragement to pursue their own passions and dreams. Talk to them about things they are interested in, and find ways to help them learn more about whatever makes their hearts sing. You’ll instill self-confidence as well as an overwhelming feeling of love.

* Photos above by The Solars

Josh and Jenny Solar created The Happy Family Movement to encourage family togetherness and memorable family experiences through simple ideas for happy family living. To learn more about The Happy Family Movement, visit their WEBSITE or on FACEBOOK or TWITTER.