9 Secrets to Raising a Happy Child
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Happy Days1 of 10
By Cortney Rock
Want to make sure your kids can handle adulthood, even if you're not so sure you can do it yourself? Experts offer advice on raising a resilient kid with a positive outlook, no matter what life throws at them.
Be a Happy Parent2 of 10
It may seem obvious, but it's still worth repeating: "The key to a happy child is a happy adult," says happiness expert Dr. Elizabeth Lombardo, author of A Happy You: Your Ultimate Prescription for Happiness. "I'm not suggesting hedonism, but having a sense of self-confidence, purpose, and meaning in life. Parents need to focus on the positive, display gratitude, and see the best in people and other situations."
Be Present3 of 10
Before you roll your eyes, think of "being present" this way: The best thing a parent can do for their kid is to drop the guilt, stop thinking about work, and enjoy whatever time they can share with their kids, free from distractions. Lombardo says, "Research states that it's the quality, not quantity, of time you spend with your kids that matters."
Focus on Strengths4 of 10
Sure, children need constructive criticism to grow, but it's important to acknowledge what your kids are doing right even more. Lombardo suggests that parents make three positive statements about children for every one criticism. But make sure to watch what you say. To foster a more lasting, stronger sense of self-worth, praise effort and growth over achievement or inborn traits like looks and intelligence.
Lighten Up5 of 10
Joking with your toddler helps set them up for social success, according to research presented at the Economic and Social Research Councils' Festival of Social Science 2011. When parents joke and play, it teaches kids how to socialize, bond, and think creatively. Not a natural comedian? Try using different voices or making up silly songs with your little one.
Take a Break6 of 10
Forcing kids to practice sports or music for hours a day might be tempting—because it does in fact improve skills—but at least consider the alternative. Psychotherapist and parenting expert Katie Hurley says, "Unstructured play is a bit of a lost art these days. In the race to get involved in everything, kids lack adequate downtime." She suggests that parents turn off their cellphones, forget about their schedules and just let kids play.
Brace Kids for Bullies7 of 10
Bullying is a perpetual item in the news—and a valid challenge facing most if not all children at some point. Lombardo offers a quick tip: "Tell kids bullies bully because they are unhappy inside. That way, your kids can have empathy for the bully, and they don't internalize the interactions." And you might want to tell kids that being kind to peers themselves is one of the most solid ways to bolster their own happiness, as recent research from the University of California, Riverside, and the University of British Columbia suggests.
Build Self-Compassion8 of 10
Research by Professor Kristin Neff at the University or Texas, Austin, has demonstrated that self-compassion—defined as mindfulness, common humanity, and self-kindness—is even more important than self-esteem in childhood. What's more, the self-compassionate have more energy, higher standards, and a better work ethic than self-critics. Remember to verbalize your own positive self-talk in front of kids, so you can lead by example.
Build Coping Skills9 of 10
No matter what you do, your child will eventually face difficulties. Rather than trying to "cheer them up," teach them to sort through feelings themselves, says Hurley. She suggests incorporating writing, art and storytelling to help them make sense of their emotions. One example? "For children who struggle with social interaction, storyboards—step-by-step cartoons drawn by the child to find out where things went wrong and what can be done differently—can help kids work through difficult situations," explains Hurley.
Help Them Help Others10 of 10
Dr. John Duffy, author of The Available Parent: Radical Optimism for Teaching Teens and Tweens, says that kids are much happier when they are helping others, whether it’s doing chores around the house or volunteering in their community. "Service not only drives empathy, but also perspective and gratitude. They also, as a bonus, tend to be less depressed, anxious and self-absorbed."
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