You spend a lot of time worrying about how well your children are doing in school and whether or not they’ll be successful, but what about making sure they’re happy? While you can’t keep your children in a bubble to protect them from disappointment and challenges, you can raise happy children who are equipped to deal with whatever the world may throw at them.
Here are some tips on setting children up for a lifetime of positive attitudes and mental well-being.
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1. Be a role model
Developing traits like optimism and gratitude are essential to raising happy children, but how do you teach such complex ideas to young children? Modelling is the one-word answer, because children will follow our example intuitively. In other words, if you want your children to be optimistic, grateful, patient and generally happy, the best way to teach them is by embodying those things yourself. You don’t have to be absolutely perfect, — children are resilient and flexible — just focus on doing the best you can.
2. Foster emotional intelligence
Teaching your little ones to understand and respect both their own and others’ feelings is important to raising happy children. Emotions come naturally, however understanding them doesn’t — this is something that needs to be taught. When you see that your child is feeling angry or frustrated, it’s important to acknowledge those feelings. Validate their feelings by letting them know that you see their frustration and that it’s okay to have those emotions.
The same goes for understanding other people’s emotions. Learning empathy is hard. It helps to describe what it feels like for the other person. If difficult feelings are a direct result of your child’s actions, then make sure you explain to them what has happened so they understand the effect of their own behaviours. Keep in mind that developing emotional intelligence takes time and you’ll likely repeat similar conversations many times. It can help to talk about the day and any issues that came up at a calm time like during dinner.
3. Praise effort, not ability
Studies have shown that toddlers whose efforts are praised, rather than their talent, are more likely to have positive attitudes as they grow. How you dole out that praise is also important. Be positive and specific, saying something like, ‘You are trying so hard and I really appreciate what you’re doing.’
Praising effort can also help children learn how to deal with disappointment. When teaching children how to deal with disappointment, the first step is to validate their feelings. If your child asks for a new toy, for example, first acknowledge that they like it and then explain why you can’t buy it. Give them some hope, though, by suggesting to put it on a wish list when you get home.
4. Don’t forget about the body
Physical health is also vital to raising happy children. Not eating or sleeping well can affect their mental well-being. It’s really important to think about the mind and body connection. Teach your children about the importance of eating healthily, getting physical exercise and getting plenty of rest to set them up for a lifetime of healthy habits.
Make healthy eating the norm by offering your children the same variety of wholesome foods you eat starting at an early age. Go on family walks, play sports together or invite your child to join you the next time you roll out your yoga mat. You’re not only setting a great example, but it makes for some great bonding time — after all, building healthy relationships is another integral part of raising happy children.
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