In last week’s post we talked about all of the benefits of being happy and how it can make you a healthier, more enjoyable, and even a more generous person. As parents, of course we would want all of those great things for our kids! So how can you help your children be happier? Here are a few tips:
- Be happy yourself. We say this a lot: You need to be a role model for your children. So if you want them to understand what being happy is, they need to see you doing it! And while you are feeling happy, talk about your feelings and how you got there, like “Wow! I just love walking outside! Feeling the sunshine warm my face makes me really happy.” It is especially helpful when you can point out to your child how she has made you happy, such as “When you put your plate in the dishwasher, it made me feel really happy, because you did a great job of remembering what I asked you to do.”
- Help your child to recognize emotions. It may seem odd, but we are not born knowing what our feelings mean. Just like children need to learn what words like “dinosaur” and “superlative” mean, they also need to be able to understand what it means to feel happy or sad or angry. You can help your child to recognize emotions by reading books about them, pointing them out in others, and helping your child to recognize them in himself. That could sound like “Hey, I can tell that you are really happy to be eating ice cream because I see a giant smile on your face!” It is also very helpful to specifically label what made a child feel the way that he does. That way, he can learn what kinds of things make him feel happy or sad or angry, like “I can tell that you feel sad right now because you are crying. I bet you feel sad because we can’t see your friend and you miss him.”
- Help your child to learn what makes her happy. Once your child can recognize when she is happy, help her learn what activities help her to be happy. Just like hobbies can help adults to feel happy, children need to learn which activities are particularly interesting and fulfilling for them. This may mean that you have to try some things out. So enroll your child in a hip-hop class, or work on some Lego buildings together. Just spending time with each other is likely to boost both of your spirits.
- Teach your child to solve problems and to look on the bright side. We will never be able to keep things from going wrong sometimes for our children. Their friends will not always be kind and they won’t also get just the right thing for Christmas. They need to learn how to solve problems in appropriate ways. They also need to learn to look for the best in a situation or person. Being able to find the positive side of things will help them to remain upbeat even in negative times.
- Teach your child to stay curious. From our post last week, you may remember that happy people are interested in the world around them. So teach your child to ask questions about things and then to go find the answers.
- Teach your child how to make friends and engage with others. Happy people are social people. They don’t necessarily have to be the life of the party, but they are engaged with others. Help your child learn how to make (and keep) friends. That way, he will have people around to laugh and share fun times with (as well as practice those problem-solving skills when the occasion arises).
For more ideas about ways to teach your child to be happy, check out this great article from TIME magazine. And remember, the best way to create happiness is to feel it yourself and then share it. Doing things with your children that you all enjoy will give them the chance to see you modeling being happy and to feel great themselves!
Image: © Andres Rodriguez| Dreamstime.com