Raising happy children is what we all, as parents and carers, want for our littlies. When we talk about “happiness” it is in reference to general emotional well-being rather than a perpetual state of joy.
So just how do we raise happy, emotionally well-rounded children?
Here are some ideas that will point you in the right direction:
- Delight in your child. There is no-one else exactly the same as your child – he or she is unique and special. In our daily lives, it can be easy to overlook the importance of recognising and communicating this important fact with our children. However, it is vital that your child knows they are loved for who they are rather than what they do. So take every opportunity you get to let them know, both through your actions and your words, just how loved and cherished they are.
- Respect your child. Allow them their opinions and interests and try not to impose your worldview on them. Children learn about family values and opinions in their daily life with you, but they ultimately have a choice as to whether they follow those same values in life or choose another path. Respect their feelings and their dreams.
- Children need safe carers. Whether you and your partner are in a stable relationship together or separated, it is important that your children have access to, and feel safe with both parents, and that parents never talk badly of one another to their children.
- Be aware of how you talk to, and about your child. Children are listening when we think they aren’t and, even if they may be too young to understand what we are really saying, they are hearing and interpreting some version of it. We don’t want that to be negative so refrain from critical talk about your children in their company and try to talk to them in the same way you would to any person you highly respect.
When we talk about raising happy children we are referring to the strengthening of our children’s emotional well-being in general. There are a number of ways adults in a child’s life can help them establish and maintain healthy emotional perspectives, behaviours and relationships.
- Encourage your child to dream and fantasize. Foster their creativity and provide opportunities for them to explore their talents, whatever those may be.
- Study with your child. Show an interest in their studies and homework activities. In many cases they will need your help and it is a great way to invest in your child and build their self esteem.
- Get active together. Physical activity is good for everyone, and encouraging children to get active helps with multiple areas of their development as well as their emotional well being. Doing activities together can also help strengthen the relationship you have with your child and their sense of connection with you.
- Use descriptive praise. By this we mean praise that is specific to the desired behaviour they completed and describes exactly what you’d like them to repeat again in the future, and how it made you feel. For example, rather than “Good boy”, try “Thankyou for putting your dirty clothes in the clothes basket without being asked – that has really helped me out”.
- Focus on effort rather than achievement. Children build self esteem through positive reinforcement of their efforts rather than their achievements alone. Of course we want to acknowledge achievements, but try not to make that the main focus. Acknowledge and encourage the attempt too.
We all want our children to grow up happy and healthy. Happiness in this respect refers to overall emotional wellbeing. There are many different ways you can help foster this with your child, and you will find some ideas gel more for one child than another. That’s fine – try things out, experiment, learn together and experience your own “happiness” when you and your child feel emotionally connected with each other.