Happy and healthy are the two most desired traits parents wish for in their children. It’s pretty obvious that the role of health care falls on parents starting as early as in the womb. But happiness is also a parenting responsibility. Scientific research offers some eye-opening tips on raising happy kids that we can all employ.
The first step is being a true role model for happiness. Children are keenly aware of the emotions and mental state their parents exude. Negativity in the home, especially within a marriage, can result in children who have tantrums, misbehave and are aggressive towards others. Aggression is usually solidified by the age of 5 and leads to hostile behavior later in life. We’ve all heard that laughter is the best medicine and when it comes to happiness, a dose of laughter is exactly what children need. Laughter is truly contagious and can change a child’s mood almost instantly. Lighten up and act silly with your kids to let the laughter and joy flow. Also use this time for creativity and make believe to expand your child’s imagination.
Play is an important part of a child’s development from infancy to teenage years. Make sure your child has plenty of time to play everyday. While you don’t need rooms filled with expensive toys, do make sure you provide a colorful and warm environment with different types of sensory, manipulative and thought-provoking toys. Often items you find in your kitchen, in nature or around your house make the best toys. Happiness should be a habit, not a chore. Find activities that make everyone in your household happy together. Also, ditch the technology. More screen time is associated with less happiness.
Emotional intelligence is another large part of happiness. Being able to identify, express and redirect feelings is a learned skill that parents should work on starting in the toddler years and continue to discuss throughout your child’s life. In the early years it starts with sharing, using manners, curbing frustrations and acting kindly towards others. As children develop more verbal skills you can talk through anger issues and role play the proper response to intense situations. This requires active listening and labeling feelings – sad, scared, mad – on the part of parents. Learning to apologize is another piece to emotional intelligence. Also, teaching optimism in the face of adversity will help encourage and control emotions. Explain the bright side of negative situations and assure your child that nothing is ever as bad as it may initially appear. This develops self-compassion and problem-solving too.
Strong relationships also help in raising happy kids. This starts within the family as parents, grandparents and extended family spend time together, respect one another and support each other. Eating dinner together is one of the best things you can do to strengthen familial relationships and be an active part of your child’s life. From there, you can teach your child how to make friends by setting a good example as a caring friend to adults and other children. Encourage your children to play with other kids and to work out minor tussles during playdates themselves. Teach empathy and love through acts of kindness, such as creating a card for a sick friend or letting others take their turn first.
Lastly, do not expect your kids to be perfect. No one is! Sometimes you have to let things go, which is a good lesson for you kids to learn too. Not everything in life will go your way and dwelling on the negative will only bring you down. Not sweating the small stuff will help eliminate stress. This includes minor indiscretions on the part of your kids. Testing boundaries is a normal part of childhood development.
Raising happy kids is a lifelong process. When you set the right tone, spend quality time together and teach some important life lessons, you’ll be on the right path to a happy family.