Children’s mental health and children’s well-being have been a hot topic in recent years, particularly since the Covid pandemic. Telling your child you love them, showering them with lots of hugs and kisses and spending time together with them are all important gifts we can give our children, but when, for example, your child comes home in tears because they’ve been hurt by someone at school, they need a little more to help them feel confident, resilient and happy inside.
As parents, we all want our children to be ‘happy’. It’s worth breaking this down into what we really mean by this though. When it boils down to it, it would be great if our children knew how to have fun, felt confident about themselves through and through and were able to cheerfully pass through difficult life events unscathed. We want them to find success in life, have strong emotional as well as physical health and be capable of forming long-term, positive relationships with those around them. This isn’t always easy to achieve since daily life throws us some punches on a regular basis, but there are things we can do as parents to lift our children above the turbulent seas of life, to help them keep negative emotions at bay and to increase their happiness levels.
In the last century, there have been an increasing number of scientific studies carried out looking into children’s well-being – at ways in which children can become emotionally robust, happier individuals. I thought I would share my top three tips from the research in this area:
Step 1 – discover their strengths
In 2004, Peterson and Seligman came up with a set of 24 strengths which we all possess to greater or lesser degrees. If someone is incredible at rallying the troops for an event then leaderhip and social skills may be two of their most developed strengths. You may inject energy and enthusiasm whenever you walk into a room if you have a well developed strength of vitality.
Every child has strengths and if you can identify what strengths a young person has then this can be a very powerful tool for them throughout their life. It can be used to guide them towards optimal subject choices as well as creative pastimes and hobbies in which they will shine. If someone has natural tendencies towards a set of particular strengths then, if they try an activity which requires high levels of these strengths, they will excel at it. In turn, their confidence will increase, they can begin to see their value and place in the world and their new found confidence will boost them to become more competent in other areas of their lives.
Check out the list of 24 strengths, go through these with your child and use them to help your child excel.
Step 2 – develop great parent-child connectedness
Good, 50-50 communication between parents and children has been shown to have a protective effect on children. Showing them that they can ask questions about difficult issues and topics without receiving negative, judgemental replies – just honest, factual truths – gives children a massive emotional boost. More than one study has shown that this can affect the choices they make in their teens, when they may be faced with peer pressure to experiment with addictive substances or unsavoury online content. If parents have open communication with their children, they are able to arm their children with accurate, correct information, and research has shown that this helps young people make better, more responsible decisions for themselves.
Step 3 – make a happiness box
Our bodies contain their very own happiness mechanisms, able to inject positive emotions into our system all by itself. These are the hormones, dopamine, seratonin, oxytocin and endorphin. Different activities and circumstances trigger these hormones to be released and, if we can work out what these are then, hey presto, we have a mini pick me up. Store special memories, games, playlists and ideas in a happy box, ready to pull out when we have the odd down day.
If there’s a movie, song or activity which makes your child happy, make a note of it it in your happy box. Doing acts of kindness for other people promotes the release of oxytocin and endorphins in our bodies – is there someone special your child could draw a picture for or help in some way? Seratonin is released when we spend time in a nature – how about planting some seeds and watching them grow? A happy box is a brilliant way to put together a record of what works to make your child happy.
Hopefully, these tips have given you some food for thought and inspired you to delve a bit deeper into how to make your children happy. Happy children often mean happier parents and a little time and research into how to make your children happy can go a long way and lead to long lasting life satisfaction as well.