Every parent would agree that they want their child to be happy, and giving your kids happy, healthy childhoods could set them up for success in life. Still, many parents wonder, how exactly do you raise happy kids in today’s world? Raising happy kids isn’t about giving them momentary pleasure or immediate gratification. It’s quite the opposite.
Happy kids have a skill set that allows them to enjoy long-term happiness in life. They’re able to pass up instant gratification to reach their goals. You can help your kids develop those skills by adopting healthy, lifelong habits. Here are some ways to raise happy kids.
Encourage playing outside.
Don’t underestimate the power of outdoor play. Running on the grass, climbing trees, sitting on a swing, and digging in the dirt is great for kids. Scents associated with nature, like pine trees, cut grass, and lavender, can boost your child’s mood. So, you might encourage your child to read a book outside or do their homework on the porch to give them an instant boost in happiness. Outdoor play can also improve social skills in children. A 2017 study published in the Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport found that children who increased their time playing outside increased their empathy, engagement, and self-control, all critical social skills. Another study found that kids with better social skills are twice as likely to go to college and less likely to experience substance abuse, obesity, and violence. So, make outdoor play a daily habit. Even when the weather isn’t perfect, encourage your kids to ride their bikes, play with neighborhood kids, and run around in the great outdoors.
Incorporating gratitude into your everyday lives could help kids become happier, healthier people. Still, keep in mind that there’s a big difference between forcing a “thank you” and genuinely meaning it. Grateful people enjoy better relationships, which can be vital to living a happier life. One of the best ways to help kids become genuinely grateful is modeling gratitude. Make it a family habit to talk about what you feel thankful for.
Identify three things you’re grateful for at the dinner table, or talk about what you’re thankful for at bedtime. This practice will help your children learn to look for things they can be grateful for in their daily lives. Make it a habit to send thank you notes too. Instead of just signing their name, encourage your child to identify something specific to thank someone for. You don’t have to save thank you notes for gifts either. You might encourage your child to write a thank you note to his teacher for helping him during the school year, or you might write a note to an incredibly kind coach.
Limit screen time.
Your child might insist that playing endless hours of video games makes them happy. However, too much screen time is bad for your child’s psychological well-being. A 2018 study published in the journal Emotion found that adolescents who spent less time on their digital devices and more time on non-screen activities, like sports, homework, religious services, and other in-person activities, were happier. Establish clear limits on your child’s screen time. If they have a smartphone, limit their access when you’re doing family activities, riding in the car, or when they’re playing outside. Set clear guidelines about how much time they can spend watching TV and using the computer.
Your children won’t love clearing the table or dusting the living room now. However, assigning chores could be a critical factor in helping them achieve long-term happiness. One study found that giving kids chores at age three and four was the most significant predictor of long-term success. It may be that children who do chores feel like they’re pitching in, which helps them feel more connected to their families. That sense of connection may help them stay mentally strong when they encounter hard times.
Chores can also teach kids various life lessons, such as responsibility and community service. They may also learn they can cope with tedious tasks or that they’re capable of persevering even when they feel frustrated. Making their beds and cleaning the kitchen can also give them a sense of accomplishment and show them that they’re capable of making a difference even though they’re young.
Don’t overindulge your children.
Buying your child lots of gifts on holidays or giving kids everything they want won’t make them happy. Overindulging kids may take a toll on their psychological well-being. Some research indicates that overindulged kids are likely to experience feelings of chronic discontent. They may struggle to identify the difference between wants and needs, and consequently, they may think happiness stems from material goods. So, it would be best to resist the urge to get your kids everything they want.
Even though they might insist that having the newest smartphone, more brand-name clothing, and a better bicycle will make them happy, the research indicates otherwise. Give them the chance to earn privileges. They’ll appreciate things much more when they’ve had to work hard to get something, rather than having everything handed to them. Focus more on experiences rather than things. People who feel the happiest spend their time and money creating memories, not collecting more items.
Keep in mind that kids don’t need to be happy all the time. They also need to experience uncomfortable emotions, like sadness, anger, fear, and disappointment. There’s no need to cheer your kids up or take action when experiencing painful emotions. Instead, coach them through it and help them find ways to soothe themselves and cope with their feelings.
It’s not a reflection of your parenting if they aren’t happy every minute of the day. Your job isn’t to become responsible for your children’s happiness. Instead, it’s up to you to give your children the skills they need to manage their emotions healthily. Finally, the best thing you can do to help raise happy kids is to provide them with a loving environment. Kids who know they are loved and cared about are more likely to thrive, even when they face challenging circumstances in life.