Ask most parents what they want most for their child and the usual answer is they just want them to be happy. These days, with most families self-isolating at home, helping your child feel happy can be more challenging than normal. But we have two great suggestions for leveling up your child’s happiness. Best part? They’re two things you can start doing right now with no supplies!
Get Happier Yourself
One of the easiest (and most overlooked) methods for increasing your child’s happiness is to be a happy person yourself. There has been extensive research establishing a significant link between depressed mothers and negative behavioral outcomes in their kids. The research shows that parental depression can cause behavioral problems in kids while also making parenting less effective. Even if you’re not depressed, per se, if you tend to have a more negative outlook on life it can impact the happiness your kids feel.
One of the easiest and fastest ways to increase your own happiness is to find ways to be grateful for what you have. This is not a new concept, but it’s one that bears repeating because of its tremendous impact on happiness levels. But have you ever come at it from a different angle?
A small study actually showed that imagining your life without a cherished moment, thing or person can help you appreciate it even more than simply being grateful for it and, in turn, even happier. In the study, college students wrote about the ways in which a positive event might never have happened and was surprising or how it became part of their life and was unsurprising. As predicted, people who wrote about an event not happening reported more positive affective states.
What positive thing can you mentally subtract from your life? What if you never met your spouse? What if you never had your children? Write about what it would be like without that person, place or thing and then feel the gratitude for it filling you up in ways it hasn’t before. Maybe focus on one thing each day and let the gratitude for that one thing fill you up throughout the day.
The happier you are, the happier your children will be. Read this for more science-backed ideas for increasing your own happiness.
The next time your child is angry, melting down or screaming at the top of her lungs, ask yourself if she might be craving connection. In her book Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids, Dr. Laura Markham reveals that most acting out is actually a cry for attention and connection. Our children need connection to feel safe and happy in the world. As parents, we can get so caught up in our own lives that we forget about this basic need. Next thing you know our kids are losing their minds over messing up an art project or not being able to tie their own shoes.
So, in those meltdown moments, try holding your child close or, if they don’t want that, sit near them and let them vent all that frustration without judgment. Once the storm passes, spend some one-on-one time with your child doing something he loves. Then, find ways to carve out more time for daily connection like reading a book together, playing a board game or taking a walk without your phone, and see if you begin to see a shift in his attitude and happiness levels.
This connection will also work wonders on kids who just seem down, unhappy or low-energy. Start connecting more and watch their happiness increase and their meltdowns decrease.
These two suggestions may seem very simplistic, but they are backed by science and research and they work. So before you dismiss these as obvious, really ask yourself if you’re as happy as you could be? Do you spend time every day connecting with your child in a way that’s meaningful?
There’s always room for improvement. But it’s also important to understand that we aren’t supposed to feel happy every minute of every day. Being human means feeling the full range of emotion – just make sure the downswings don’t go on for too long for you or your kids.