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18th August 2019
We all want our kids to be happy, that much is universal. And not just now but in the future too. However, the pressures of modern life make it sometimes seem impossible; perhaps not because we don’t think about it enough but actually because we think about it too much. You often hear the term who’s going to entertain the kids? like we’re some kind of act to keep children amused. The perpetual social media bragging from other parents, who are away on some fun-packed adventure again, also doesn’t help does it? But what is it that really nurtures happy children?
Don’t try to make your child happy
This seems counter-intuitive, but so often you see parents going around constantly looking for things to give their children, do with their children, protect their children from. Some parents want to protect their children from every possible setback in life. Last year I read about a mother who called her son’s university to complain because he failed his essay.
I know not all parents are ridiculous like that, and trying to do nice things for your kids isn’t bad per se, but it’s really important to find a balance. Why? Because we want our children to build some resilience. We want them to be able to handle setbacks without completely crashing. The only way they can do this is by experiencing some failures as they grow up. And yes, this might occasionally (or even quite often) mean saying no to them.
In the long run children crave boundaries as much as they crave other things. Typically, children don’t have the self-discipline to regulate all of their own behaviour, even though some of their own behaviour can actually lead their own unhappiness. Having boundaries, routines, and consistency helps them to feel safe, secure and happiest in the long run; and this isn't going to be instilled by parents who are on a mission to maintain their 100% happiness 100% of the time.
Connectedness is a term that refers to a feeling of being loved, understood and acknowledged. Showing unconditional love for your child builds this connectedness, protecting them from emotional distress now and down the line. Perhaps this sounds obvious, but its significance is so clear that it’s worth reiterating.
This kind of connection comes instinctively to most parents. Holding your baby when she cries; cuddling and reading stories together; tickling and laughing and general silliness; getting down to their level at least once every day, looking them in the eye, and telling them that you really love them. Show your love as much as you can and your children will be much happier now and in the future.
Be happy yourself
Finally, the importance of actually being happy yourself is so often overlooked. In fact, some parents say things like as long as the kids are happy. In other words, they don’t need to be happy themselves and they are willing to sacrifice their own happiness. However, the reality is that children are unlikely to feel happy for a prolonged period of time, and very unlikely in the long term, if their parents feel miserable. Therefore, improving your own happiness is actually key to raising happy children, even if this sometimes means brief periods where your children feel unhappy because they have to tag along to something for you.
So what makes you happy? A happy relationship, spending time with friends, regular exercise, eating properly, learning something new, and having a goal are all well-known remedies. In the hustle and bustle of modern life try to set aside some time for yourself rather than continuously being preoccupied with your child’s happiness, and you’ll probably raise your children to be more resilient, balanced and happier in the long run.
Posted in categories: Children's Health, Parenting