Happy children: useful tips
What makes the little ones happy? Various child development experts have argued that happiness is not something that can be given as a gift to a child. Instead, it is something that can be taught to them.
Edward Hallowell, psychiatrist and author of The Childhood Roots of Adult Happiness, said children who are overly spoiled, who have too many toys, or who are continually protected by their parents, are more likely to become bored, cynical, and unhappy teens.
The psychiatrist reiterated: “The best indicators of future happiness are internal, not external.” Fortunately, you don’t have to be an expert in child psychology to encourage children to find the inner strength and wisdom they need to get through life’s ups and downs. With patience and flexibility, any parent can lay the foundation for a happy life and happy children.
Here, according to the Spanish site Babycenter, 8 useful tips, also supported by the psychiatrist Hallowell and other experts, to raise a happy child.
1. Learn to read your children’s emotions
Your child knows very well how to show you when something makes him happy or sad. Her face lights up with a huge smile if you suddenly come home. Instead, the little one cries inconsolably when he can’t find his beloved teddy bear.
However, you may wonder if he is happy. The signs of happiness may be obvious: A happy child smiles, plays, is curious, shows interest in other children, and does not need constant stimulation. On the contrary, Hallowell says, the signs of an unhappy child could be just as clear: “He is closed, quiet, does not eat much, does not spontaneously get involved with other children, does not play, does not ask questions, does not laugh or smile and speaks very little. “.
But just because a child is shy or introverted, doesn’t laugh or interact a lot, doesn’t mean they’re unhappy. Shyness is not the same as sadness, but you will definitely have to work harder to decipher its signs. If so, Hallowell indicates that you need to be alert to see if there are any significant changes in his behavior (eg he becomes isolated or fearful) that might suggest a problem.
Paul C. Holinger, a professor of psychiatry at Rush-Presbyterian-St. Luke’s Medical Center in Chicago, has identified nine innate signals that children use to communicate their feelings. You can recognize these signs in your children. Two signals are “interest” and “pleasure” and they are positive feelings, while three negative signals, in particular, “anguish”, “anger” and “fear”, indicate that the child is unhappy.
Most parents recognize that a frightened and distressed child is not a happy child, but Holinger noted that many parents do not recognize that an angry child usually also expresses sadness. Regardless of age, ” anger is linked to excessive distress, ” says Hollinger. When your child hits his brother or throws toys, it means he is distressed beyond his tolerance level.
Your child probably has his own way of showing you that he is going through a difficult time. Some withdraw and others throw tantrums, while others get too attached to mom or dad. By getting to know your child’s temperament better, you will understand better if something is wrong with his world.
2. Have fun together
This is the first step in raising a happy child according to Hallowell. “Play with them,” advises the professor. “If you have fun with them, they too have fun .”
Play creates joy, but it is also your child’s way of developing skills essential to their future happiness. Unstructured play will allow you to discover what he likes to do (building towers of wooden blocks, etc.) and this can guide him towards a career that will satisfy him ».
According to Hallowell, happy people are often the ones who have learned a skill. For example, when the child tries multiple times to throw a ball at you, he learns from his mistakes, learns tenacity and discipline, and then experiences the joy of being successful through his own efforts.
Above all, he finds that he has some control over his life. Trying to do something, sooner or later he will have the satisfaction of realizing that, thanks to persistence, he will achieve what he set out to do. Studies show that this feeling of control, experienced through mastering a skill, is an important factor in determining adult happiness. And children, like adults, must pursue their own interests or there will be no joy in their achievements.
4. Create healthy habits for the little ones
Getting enough sleep, exercising, and eating a healthy diet are important habits for everyone’s well-being, especially children. Give your child time to run outdoors – it will help him with his moods.
And pay attention to the need for order in his life: although some children adapt easily to different times and circumstances, most of them are happier with a set schedule that lets them know what’s going to happen.
Pay attention to any connection between your child’s mood and certain foods. Some parents find that sugar can give the child energy, but it can also cause mood swings and aggressive behavior. Food allergies and sensitivities can also play a role in a child’s behavior and mood.
5. Let them try to solve their “problems”
Some parents believe that raising a happy child means solving all their problems. But Carrie Masia-Warner, a child psychologist and deputy director of the Institute for Anxiety and Mood Disorders at the New York University School of Medicine, sees this as a grave mistake made by numerous loving and well-meaning parents.
Masia-Warner said: “Children need to learn to tolerate some anguish . Let them fight, understand things for themselves because this allows them to learn to deal with problems ».
Hallowell agrees that allowing children to have a variety of experiences (even difficult or frustrating ones) helps them fill the reservoir of “inner strength,” which leads to happiness.
Learning to cope with life’s inevitable frustrations is critical to your child’s future happiness. This does not mean that children should not ask for help if they need it, but your job is to help them find a solution on their own (and not to provide it).
If the child develops a sense of independence and confidence, he can develop even greater self-esteem and happiness. One way to help your little one develop these qualities is to let him play alone for 10-15 minutes, several times a day.
When your child goes into a corner at a birthday party and pouts, your natural reaction may be to get him to join the other kids and have fun. But it is important to allow him to be unhappy.
Children need to know that sometimes it is normal to feel unhappy. It is part of life. And if we try to save him from all misery, we could send him the message that it is wrong to feel sad. We need to make them feel various feelings, including sadness.
You can encourage him to name the feelings and to express them verbally. Young children very quickly understand words that have to do with their emotional state (such as “happy” or “angry”). And when they manage to translate their emotions into words, they also acquire a new ability to recognize and regulate their feelings.
7. Listen to them
According to Hallowell, the best way to know if your child is happy is simple: listen to him. The psychiatrist said: “I ask my children so much if they are happy that they often roll their eyes. But it’s the best way to let them know I’m interested. ‘
Masia-Warner agrees that having an open channel of communication with the child is essential to understanding him. If the child seems sad, ask him, “Is there anything you would like to tell me? Is something bothering you? ». And then let him talk and, if he doesn’t want to, try again the next day. It may take a few days and maybe, without warning, she’ll start crying over something that happened the week before.
If you think your child is having a hard time, talk to the teachers or parents of his friends to see if they have noticed anything.
Often children are sad or upset by something that causes stress in the environment in which they grow up: an argument with a friend, a problem with a sibling, or tension at home.
Other times, the source of the malaise is more severe. If your child’s symptoms of sadness persist and you notice excessive behavior (doesn’t want to go to school, has trouble eating or sleeping, etc.), talk to your child’s doctor.
Teach them the importance of helping others and the satisfaction it comes from doing so. Studies show that people who are interested in everything around them and who help others tend to feel less depressed.
Additionally, experts suggest that helping others is an important part of family life and children can benefit greatly from it.