Being an intentional parent is harder today than it used to be, but we all want our kids to have a healthy childhood. With technology dominating our existence morning till night — cell phones in everyone’s hands — connecting with your kids in a meaningful way is challenging. We have to start finding the balance from our child’s early age.
The truth is, happy children grow in to healthy, well-adjusted adults, says author Christine Carter in the book Raising Happiness: 10 Simple Steps for More Joyful Kids and Happier Parents (Ballantine; 2010). Conversely, a childhood dominated by negative emotions results in poorer mental health.
So what does a happy childhood look like?
Years of research reveal the following:
• Happy kids tend to have WARM, RESPONSIVE PARENTS or caregivers
This is one of the strongest predictors of a happy childhood. Parents who respond promptly to their kids’ behavior and meet their needs have kids who feel safe and protected.
• Happy kids get STRONG, EMOTIONAL SUPPORT from adults
A happy childhood is not just about providing positive experiences and moments. It also is about supporting them through hard and difficult emotions during difficult times. Choose not to punish a child who is “misbehaving” by having an emotional tantrum. Help them learn to regulate by providing co-regulation.
• Happy kids have GOOD, INTERPERSONAL RELATIONSHIPS, i.e. friends
Closeness with others come through friendships whether in the family or out. Everybody needs friends and you should encourage friendships for your kids and offer ways for them to connect.
• Happy kids learn from ROLE MODELS WITH STRONG VALUES
For example, the value of being social. Or the value of work/leisure time balance.
• Happy kids FEEL VALUED
Praise your kids’ efforts and processes no matter what they are. Show them love daily.
• Happy kids GROW IN INDEPENDENCE
Eventually all kids grow up, so it’s helpful to let them do things for themselves as they are able. Kids who have parents who support their autonomy tend to have better psychological functioning. Controlling parents can yield anxious, unhappy children.
• Happy kids are raised with REASON, NOT PUNISHMENT
Using punishment to teach is often associated with raising kids with mental issues.
• Happy kids are PHYSICALLY ACTIVE
Being active boosts moods. Whether it’s exercise through sports or a lot of daily playtime, being active is associated with happiness, self-esteem and reduced drug-taking risks.
Giving kids a happy childhood is the goal of many parents. Kids grow up quickly, so be sure to stay connected with them daily as they move through the years!