What’s What Wednesday: Secrets to a Happy Child
This week Sunshine State Counseling Center is concentrating on sharing tips on how to raise a happy child. Having our children be happy may be one of the most important goals we have as parents.
Murray, Ph.D., author of Raising an Optimistic Child: A Proven Plan for Depression-Proofing Young Children—for Life (McGraw-Hill). “There may be a genetic propensity for depression, but our genes are malleable and can be switched on or off depending on the environment,” he says. “The research clearly shows that happy, optimistic children are the product of happy, optimistic homes, regardless of genetic makeup.”
What can you do to promote happiness in your child? Below are a few examples of what you can do to strengthen your child’s capacity to experience joy.
It is important that you help your child feel connected to you, other family members, friends and even pets. “Connectedness” — a feeling of being understood, love and wanted is one of the biggest protectors against emotional distress, risky behaviors and suicidal thoughts. Having a support group has shown to prevent many unwanted occurrences.
Don’t Try to Make Your Child Happy
You may be wondering “ I thought I am trying to make my child happy”, but the best thing you can do for child is to stop trying to make them happy in the short term and instead try to for the long term. Try to step back and allow your child to develop his or her own coping skills and the resilience he or she will need to bounce back from life’s setbacks. As parents we normally feel responsible to give our child what they want, when they want however life does not work like that. Balance is important to work towards.
Nurture Your Happiness
Children are like sponges; they learn from us and in the same way their moods may be affected. Happy parents are likely to have happy kids, while children with depressed parents suffer twice the average rate of depression. Take care of your own happiness and your child will feel the difference. “If parents have a really good, committed relationship” Murray says, “the child’s happiness often naturally follows.”
Praise the Right Stuff
Murray says, “Praise the effort rather than the result.” Praise things such as creativity, hard work, and persistence more than the achievement itself. Praising your child for things that can be controlled is important, and we recommend to not praise your child on things that are out of their control and potentially fleeting. Some examples of that would be saying they are pretty, athletic or being smart— there may come a time when they cannot keep up that standard and can cause feelings of low self-esteem.
Finally remember that studies consistently link feelings of gratitude to emotional well-being. One thing you can do each day is to name and have your child name something they are thankful for. This could potentially lead to “lasting happiness and foster all kinds of positive emotions.”