The day we found out that I was pregnant, I promised our child that I would try to teach them how to be happy. I didn’t want for him to just go through life and not truly enjoy every moment of it. I committed to ensuring that our son (and later our daughter too) learned how to be happy.
Studies have shown that children who were taught how to be happy are less stressed, and have a higher self-esteem. Additionally, they also generally do better in school and have improved social skills.
Teaching a child how to be happy may seem difficult to accomplish, but it really isn’t. I would love to tell you the things we practice at home to raise our two children to be happy.
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Be a good role model
I am sure you noticed this yourself; kids copy and repeat everything they can. They are like little sponges that soak up everything. If they see you making the most of each day, they will find it easier to understand what you mean when you say “happy”. They will see how positive things are for you and that you enjoy your life, even on the bad days. Your actions are the best way to show them how it works.
Try to give them the chance to express their feelings. Take your time and really listen what your child is trying to tell you. Go down to their level when you talk to them (physically, not condescendingly), treat them with respect and help your child find a solution to his/her problem. Being happy isn’t about not having problems, it’s about knowing how to handle them.
Take ‘in’ the moment
One other thing we do, and this takes practice, is to enjoy the moment. We will go outside just to quietly listen and observe with our eyes closed for a few minutes. In a society full of TVs, tablets, Kindles, phones, iPods, and every other visual stimulant, it’s relaxing to enjoy your surroundings with some of your other senses from time to time.
Take the stress away
When things get a little stressful during the day, we take a step back and take a deep breath to calm ourselves. We practice yoga at home because it’s both calming and relaxing. It is much easier to be happy when you are relaxed.
Less stuff is more
Give your child the gift of experience. This will help them in life more than material possessions while also teaching them that experience is worth more than “things”. As adults, we often associate “things” with happiness. Things are nice, but if that is all that can make you happy, you will have a lot of bad days between tax returns… When a child understands that experiences are what count, they will seek them out instead of trying to get more things. Since even broke parents can go to the park, it is a much easier method of pursuing happiness than just buying stuff. Since we started living more minimalistic we enjoy moments even more since there is less stuff to distract us. (If you would like to know more, click on the link Why Minimalism)
Start when their young
Lots of people think they can teach their children how to be happy once the kids are older and understand better, but you can start as soon as they are born. Part of learning how to be happy is being able to appreciate what is around you. The first step to appreciating what is around you is being aware of what is around you. You can start with different sensory exercises using shapes and different materials to smell, touch, or observe. Later you can make some sensory boxes for you children. Even when you go outside, just playing in sand or grass gives them the opportunity to practice their situational awareness. You will know you are doing it right when they start exploring unprompted. Of course, they usually explore with their mouth, and it’s usually dirt they’re exploring, but hey, it’s all part of being aware of your surroundings. (I am not saying let them eat dirt… I’m just saying them trying is a good sign.)
Take time for you
Take some “Me” time. Make sure you refill your tank, do something you enjoy, even if it is just for 1 hour. You will be in a better mood and in fresh spirit to take care of your children. It is also a good practice to teach the little ones. They will need to do the same thing as they grow and knowing that Mommy and Daddy do it makes it easy to emulate later.
Show them how to recognize positive things
We as humans tend to focus on the negative things in our lives with the intention of fixing them. All that really happens though is that we spend a lot of time focused on negative things. You have to learn to focus on the positive. The easiest way to do this is as a family. For us, the entire family sits down to dinner together. We enjoy our meals while we talk with each other (without cellphones or other distractions). We talk about our days, but we try to focus on the positive things that happened to us. Getting into this habit will force you to notice the positive things more readily than the negative. The trick is to show genuine interest in what the rest of the family has to say though. Learning what experiences they felt most worthy of mentioning will provide a lot of insight into what makes them happy.
Those are just some pointers to guide you in the directions of teaching your children how to be happy. You can go ahead and implement these ideas into your family, even if your children are already a little older. (Really, any time before they are paying for your retirement is fine, but earlier is better.)
I would love to know if you have any other practices, traditions, or ideas that you use/have used to teach your children how to be happy! Is this something that you think your family could benefit from?
Talk to you soon,
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