Remember this mantra from the Ren and Stimpy cartoons of the mid 1990’s?
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if creating happiness in ourselves and our children was as simple and chanting a silly phrase over and over again? But in reality, we as parents need to not only provide the means for happiness in our children, but teach them how to achieve it themselves. Happiness, for many is a choice, but it’s also a learned state. We don’t pop out of the womb thinking, “Wow, am I happy!”
First let’s look at what happiness means and how it applies to our children. The official Wikipedia definition of happiness is;
Happiness is a mental or emotional state of well-being characterized by positive or pleasant emotions ranging from contentment to intense joy.
Happiness is a blurred concept and can mean many different things to many people. Some people feel happiness is related to “warm-n-fuzzy” feelings while others think of the related concept of well-being, quality of life and flourishing. Whereas there is no “magic formula” for happiness, there are some tried-and true ways to raise happy, well-adjusted kids.
1. Teach Them To See The Good
Point out the positive. If it’s a rainy day, point out that it’s a great day to bake cookies. Teaching them to look for the silver lining in all that life hands to us is a sure way to build your child’s confidence and help him or her be happy. Praise is another form of pointing out the positive. Catch them “doing something right” and reward them with a pat on the back, a healthy dose of praise and a warm hug.
2. Let ‘Em Play
Allowing kids to be kids can sometimes get muddied in the reality that parents want their young ones to excel in sports or be a part of extracurricular activities. A quote from the on-line site LiveScience sums it up:
“The bad news, child development experts say, is that free playtime has been shrinking for children over the past three decades. So break out the tinker toys. Your child’s brain might thank you.”
3. Get Enough Shut-Eye
Sleep, or lack thereof, is such a huge part of positive outlook, thought process and even brain function in kids. Most kids between 5 and 12 get about 9.5 hours a night, but experts agree that most need 10 or 11 hours each night. Sleep is an individual thing and some kids need more than others.
4. A Little Discipline Goes A Long Way
Though your child may think otherwise, no one ever died from hearing “no, you can’t.” Studies have shown that children who have boundaries and consequences are happier children in the long run.
5. Let Go Of A Laugh (Or Two, Or Three)
Ever heard the old saying “laughter is the best medicine?” Laughter in a home brings in light and positivity. When parents joke and pretend, it gives young kids the tools to think creatively as well.
6. Stick A Mirror On Your Forehead
If you are a parent finding yourself in a pattern of anger and negativity, just know that this behavior is easily transferred to your children. Act as you wish your children to act and lead by example. As you go through your day pretend there is a mirror on your forehead and everything your child sees you doing is a direct “reflection” of their future actions.
7. Step Away From The Helicopter
As parents we always feel the need to hover and protect. But there is a point when our over-protectiveness not only turns us into Helicopter Parents, but could be detrimental to our kids in the long run. Children of hovering parents are more likely to be anxious, self-conscious and less open to new experiences than their counterparts with more relaxed moms and dads. As hard as it may be, there comes a point when we as parents need to step back and let our kids experience life for themselves.
8. Put Efficient Fuel In Their Tanks
Nutrition and kids is like the old saying, “garage in-garbage out.” Healthy choices for family meals are a win/win for all involved and eating “clean” food (food closest to its original source) supplies growing minds and bodies with the nutrients and vitamins they need. Kidshealth puts these healthy foods into these categories:
- protein (meat, beans, fish, and nuts)
- milk and dairy products
Just remember, you are the most important influence on your child. You can do many things to help your children develop healthy eating habits for life.
9. Monitor What They Watch
Granted there’s nothing harmful about Barney The Dinosaur or Dora the Explorer, but there can be lasting effects as your children get older and begin to get interested in violent video games or the dreaded You Tube channel. Although there are numerous safeguards parents can put in place to regulate their child’s online activities, nothing is more effective than good ‘ol parental supervision. Place the family computer is a central area of the house so it is within full view of everyone, post online safety rules for everyone to abide by and have honest conversations with them about what is acceptable viewing for their age group.
10. Encourage The Breathing Of Fresh Air
Aside from the fact that running, playing and exploring the out-of-doors is healthy for humans of all ages, there are definite pronounced benefits for children. When your child’s skin is directly exposed to sunlight, a chemical reaction inside their body leads to the formation of vitamin D. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, vitamin D is essential for the “formation, growth, and repair of bones and for normal calcium absorption and immune function.” It’s vitamin D that also helps fend off feelings of being tired or depressed. The bottom line is; fresh air, sun and nature are a healthy combination for families.
Happiness is more than a pretty word found on greeting cards. Happiness in a healthy child embodies a toolbox of learning emotional resources and behaviors which will help him/her interact with the world in productive and positive ways.