How Parents Can Encourage Their Child’s Joy

One of the unexpected delights of being a parent is having a front row seat to seeing a child’s joy—whether it’s excitement at zoo, the experience of riding a train, or just getting a slushie on a summer day. “Most children have a huge capacity for joy,” said Maureen Healy, a child psychology expert and author of the book The Happiness Workbook For Kids.

“Some children are born with challenges that make it difficult for them to experience joy, because of the environment or biological reasons, but most children are joyful.” As a parent, one of the struggles is finding a way to help your children retain their capacity for joy even as the difficulties of life get in the way.

Supportive relationships are essential

To help maintain your child’s capacity for joy, one essential component is helping them develop supportive relationships. “You need to have someone you can talk to,” Healy said. “For an adult, a supportive relationship is, ‘who would you call at two in the morning?’ It’s the same thing as a kid: ‘Who can you talk to when you are feeling bullied?’

As Healy notes, children will often internalize the bad circumstances around them and think that it’s their own fault. “You need to have another supportive relationship,” Healy said, someone who can offer comfort and a different perspective, one which can help them recalibrate what is going on in their life.

Help your child lean into their strengths

Another component of helping your child retain their joy is helping them embrace their strengths and offer unconditional acceptance of their interests. “Developing their strengths is part of joy,” Healy said. “I’ve had parents who have said to me, ‘I have a guitar player, but I wanted a doctor.’ You want to do your best as an adult to unconditionally accept and encourage them.”

One way to do that is by letting your child participate in making decisions about what they want to do or how they spend their time, such as choosing their own extracurricular activities—even if those activities are unusual or unexpected. “Allow your child to be a voice in participating and finding their joy,” Healy said.

Set an example for getting through tough times

When the tough times hit, it’s important to set an example for your kids of what it looks like to get through them. As Healy suggests, it’s important to not always sugarcoat life’s challenges, but to be honest about the fact that sometimes life can be really hard and that there’s not always much that you can do about it other than persevere as best you can.

By: Rachel Fairbank

Source: How Parents Can Encourage Their Child’s Joy

Critics By Eric Barker

Happiness is a tremendous advantage in a world that emphasizes performance. On average, happy people are more successful than unhappy people at both work and love. They get better performance reviews, have more prestigious jobs, and earn higher salaries. They are more likely to get married, and once married, they are more satisfied with their marriage. So looking at the science, what really works when it comes to raising happy kids?

Step 1: Get Happy Yourself

The first step to happier kids is, ironically, a little bit selfish.Extensive research has established a substantial link between mothers who feel depressed and “negative outcomes” in their children, such as acting out and other behavior problems. Parental depression actually seems to cause behavioral problems in kids; it also makes our parenting less effective.And this is not merely due to genetics.

Step 2: Teach Them To Build Relationships

Nobody denies learning about relationships is important — but how many parents actually spend the time to teach kids how to relate to others?

(Just saying “Hey, knock it off” when kids don’t get along really doesn’t go far in building essential people skills.)

Step 3: Expect Effort, Not Perfection

Note to perfectionist helicopter parents and Tiger Moms: cool it. Relentlessly banging the achievement drum messes kids up. Why? Dweck explains: “When we praise children for the effort and hard work that leads to achievement, they want to keep engaging in that process. They are not diverted from the task of learning by a concern with how smart they might — or might not — look.”

Step 4: Teach Optimism

Want to avoid dealing with a surly teenager? Then teach those pre-teens to look on the bright side. Author Christine Carter puts it simply: “Optimism is so closely related to happiness that the two can practically be equated.”

She compares optimists to pessimists and finds optimists:

  1. Are more successful at school, work and athletics
  2. Are healthier and live longer
  3. End up more satisfied with their marriages
  4. Are less likely to deal with depression and anxiety

Step 5: Teach Emotional Intelligence

Emotional intelligence is a skill, not an inborn trait. Thinking kids will just “naturally” come to understand their own emotions (let alone those of others) doesn’t set them up for success. A simple first step here is to “Empathize, Label and Validate” when they’re struggling with anger or frustration.

Step 6: Form Happiness Habits

We’re on step 6 and it might seem like this is already a lot to remember for you — let alone for a child. We can overcome that with good habits. Thinking through these methods is taxing but acting habitually is easy, once habits have been established. How do you help kids build lasting happiness habits? Carter explains a few powerful methods backed by research:

  1. Stimulus removal: Get distractions and temptations out of the way.
  2. Make It Public: Establish goals to increase social support — and social pressure.
  3. One Goal At A Time: Too many goals overwhelms willpower, especially for kids. Solidify one habit before adding another.
  4. Keep At It: Don’t expect perfection immediately. It takes time. There will be relapses. That’s normal. Keep reinforcing.

Step 7: Teach Self-Discipline

Self-discipline in kids is more predictive of future success than intelligence — or most anything else, for that matter.

Yes, it’s that famous marshmallow test all over again. Kids who better resisted temptation went on to much better lives years later and were happier. What’s a good way to start teaching self-discipline? Help kids learn to distract themselves from temptation.

Step 8: More Playtime

We read a lot about mindfulness and meditation these days — and both are quite powerful. Getting kids to do them regularly however can be quite a challenge. What works almost as well? Playtime isn’t just goofing off. It’s essential to helping kids grow and learn.

Step 9: Rig Their Environment For Happiness

We don’t like to admit it, but we’re all very much influenced by our environment – often more than we realize. Your efforts will be constrained by time and effort, while context affects us (and children) constantly. What’s a simple way to better control a child’s surroundings and let your deliberate happiness efforts have maximum effect? Less TV.

Step 10: Eat Dinner Together

Sometimes all science does is validate those things our grandparents knew all along. Yes, family dinner matters. This simple tradition helps mold better kids and makes them happier too.

Parents of disabled children ‘still not happy‘ with care provided by Dudley Council Express & Star

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