We think about filling our children’s days with scheduled activities and classes, but do we really think about what makes them happy?
I always feel like there is not enough hours in the day to do all the things I want to do.
We rush our children off from one thing to the next, all in good intentions, but it would be nice to take a step back and think about what it is that truly make them happy. Our definition of happiness is not the same as that of children. Sometimes it is the simple things that we tend to overlook that stand in the way of them being happy.
Read on for some tips from the article 7 secrets of highly happy children by Katie Hurley, Child and Adolescent Psychotherapist and Parenting Expert. They are obvious things that are easily overlooked by parents.
1. They eat on time.
I know what you’re thinking; that’s too simple to be a real parenting strategy. Think again. Have you ever been so hungry that you just wanted to scream? That’s how kids feel when they miss a snack or have to wait two hours past their normal mealtime to participate in some super-fancy family dinner.
Eating at regular intervals refuels their growing brains and bodies and keeps hunger under control. When kids are calm and satisfied, they experience greater happiness.
2. They get consistent sleep.
I know, I know, some kids are better sleepers than others. While that’s certainly the truth, it isn’t an excuse for poor sleep habits. Kids need to learn how to sleep. It’s up to us to teach them. When they are completely exhausted, they are cranky. When they are well-rested and ready to embrace the day, they are happier. Make sleep (and a consistent bedtime) a priority.
3. They play without instructions.
Unstructured playtime appears to be a lost art these days. It used to be that kids made their own fun. Today, kids are over-scheduled, dialed in and in awe of toys that essentially do the playing for them. Sure, those garbage trucks with all of the bells and whistles are neat, but be sure to mix in some wooden trucks and building blocks. And, please, take a look at the busy schedule and find some time where your kids can just play each day. Play is good for the soul.
4. They are allowed to express emotions.
Kids yell when they’re mad. They cry when they’re sad. They might even stomp their feet and run around in circles when they’re not sure what to feel. And sometimes, if you’re really lucky, they do all of that in the middle of aisle 9 at your friendly neighborhood Target store. Let them. Kids need to express their emotions. While adults know to call a friend to vent when the going gets tough, kids are a bit more primitive. Shushing them and publicly shaming them doesn’t help. Let them vent in their own little way and then offer to help. Enduring a public temper tantrum might feel overwhelming in the moment, but it’s better than a lifetime of internalizing negative emotions that could lead to eating issues, depression or other emotional problems for your child.
5. They get to make choices.
Kids have very little control over their lives. They are constantly being told where to go, what to do and what to eat. A little bit of control goes a long way toward feeling happy. Let your kids choose their outfits. Allow them to choose the dinner menu one night per week. Ask them what classes they want to take. Give them the opportunity to make some decisions and watch them smile in return.
6. They feel heard.
Kids are intuitive. Even toddlers can tell when parents are tuning them out or answering on autopilot. When kids feel like their parents truly listen to them (about everything from Lightning McQueen’s best race to what they learned in school), they feel more connected. This increases their self-confidence and increases their overall happiness. Listen when your children speak. It’s the best way to build an open and honest relationship with your child and it makes your child happy.
7. They experience unconditional love.
Kids mess up. You tell them not to jump off the couch over and over again, but they do it anyway. And then they cry. Because childhood is largely based on trial and error, and sometimes kids just need to take chances. Forgive them. Love them anyway.
When kids know that their parents love and support them no matter what, they are more likely to take healthy risks. They are confident and secure in their decisions. They learn that sometimes people make mistakes, but there is always a chance to right a wrong.
When children know that their parents will always be there for them, for better or for worse, they are happy.
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