Raising happy kids. Isn’t that, among other things, what all parents want? Though sustained happiness (and really we’re talking about joy) is the result of several tactics and environmental factors, you have much to offer your child in this realm. We hope these simple and consistent practices will be helpful!
Raising Happy Kids Today
Today, maintaining joy is becoming more difficult for children. Most staggering of the statistics that support this claim is the fact that there’s been an increase in child suicides, most obvious at 200% among girls 10-14 years old.
It is of utmost importance that parents and all caretakers take seriously the happiness of children. Yet, perhaps we’ve been misguided as a culture in our approach to raising happy kids. So, what can we be doing differently?
Raising Happy Kids by Choosing Activities with Intention
Allow for more boredom. Boredom is the space necessary for the development of imagination. At points, living joyfully demands a lot of imagination. Great ideas are birthed out of the void of activity.
Additionally, children will have time to think, feel for themselves, and move their bodies. These are important for developing confidence and resilience.
Decrease screen time. Dr. Liraz Margalit, a consumer behavior analyst and writer for Psychology Today, writes that excessive screen time in children can stunt cognitive development, cause trouble with making friends and create an addiction-like cycle in the brain. Lastly, it teaches that all actions have an immediate effect, which is true nowhere in the real world.
So, put your phone away. Children need emotionally available parents. Then, limit your child’s screen time to one hour a day, if possible.
Spend time outdoors. Children, as we all do, need vitamin D for several of the body’s processes. Additionally, there is a strong correlation between vitamin D deficiency and depression.
Sunshine gives us vitamin D. So, get outside. Explore, make memories, think critically, ask questions, talk, learn together. Wonder at the beauty of the created world all around us.
Raising Happy Kids by Cultivating Spiritual Practices
Encourage more silence. Our spiritual foremothers and forefathers knew a whole lot about mental health. Silence offers children time to replenish cognitive resources. Also, it alleviates stress and tension. Turn off the music and the TV. Get out of the car.
This teaches your child how to focus. It offers them space to process. Moreover, it invites them to learn to stay present to their experience.
Practice gratitude. The wisdom of our faith traditions has told us this for generations. Neurologically, gratitude functions like anti-depressants by raising dopamine and serotonin levels in the brain.
Perhaps learn a prayer of gratitude together to say before meals or bedtime. Alternatively, create a gratitude jar where strips of paper with notes of thanks can be placed throughout the day.
Raising Happy Kids by Caring for Their Bodies
Encourage better sleep. So much growth is taking place within children’s brains and bodies. They are learning an incredible amount at all times. As a result, they need lots of sleep. And they need it consistently.
Look up your child’s age and find out how much sleep they need to be getting. Then, create a schedule that will ensure they will get it.
Provide nutritious food. However it’s possible in your current context, make food available that is healthy for your child’s body.
This means avoiding snacks high in sugar. Also, give them opportunities to try new flavors and kinds of cuisine. Provide a balanced diet that includes fruits, veggies, whole grains, and lots of protein options.
Encourage physical activity. Physical activity is proven to elevate mood and reduce anxiety. Children need to be using their bodies in whatever ways they enjoy.
This doesn’t mean your child must play a sport or be enrolled in a scheduled activity. This could mean walking the dog daily or riding bikes in your neighborhood.
Give hugs, kisses, snuggles, tickles. Healthy and loving physical touch with your child promotes the release of oxytocin, which is believed to defend against depression. Additionally, oxytocin encourages kindness, helpfulness, empathy, and friendliness.
Moreover, children need to feel what healthy and loving touch is. They will carry this with them as they discern what is a healthy and rich connection with others.
Raising Happy Kids by Encouraging Self-Reliance
Invite decision-making. Having a strong ability to make decisions lowers anxiety. Additionally, children learn about themselves through their own preferences. This is important in their journey of discovering who God has made and is making them to be.
Also, life will be filled with decisions that children will need to make, the implications of which will increase. It will be a gift to them if they become comfortable making their own decisions as youngsters.
Encourage independence. It’s often easier for us as adults to simply do for children. However, try to avoid assisting your children with tasks they are capable of doing themselves.
This teaches them responsibility, stamina, patience, and self-confidence. These traits will serve them well for all their years, offering them an inner strength upon which they can draw.
Your children are depending on you to give them tohetools to cultivate joy in their lives. What we offer them now will bear fruit and create less for them to overcome later. You have within you what they need, and God’s Spirit will walk with you as you love them evermore into their being. We hope this has been helpful and we look forward to hearing how you are raising happy kids of your own in the comments below!
For further reading:
- 4 Rituals That Will Make You Happy, According to Neuroscience
- Science Says Silence Is Much More Important To Our Brains Than We Think
- What Screen Time Can Really Do to Kids’ Brains
- Silent Tragedy: Every Parents Who Cares About the Future of His/Her Child Should Read This