If you think back to your childhood, you'll doubtless remember some moments of joy and other moments that left a negative impact on you for many years to come. In addition, everywhere you look, you'll see contradictory advice about childhood development. One resource will tell you to take a particular approach, and the next will tell you to avoid that approach at all costs!
Consequently, you might often find yourself conflicted about how to maximize the happiness of children in a way that's safe, responsible, and loving.
The good news is that the latest scientific studies can tell us a lot about how to boost the well-being, contentment, and emotional growth of children. Whether you’re a parent, plan to be a parent someday, work with children or want to make younger family members happier, this research will help you stay a step ahead. This guide will look at ten of the best tips.
Firstly, it's important to note that some aspects of a child's happiness will depend on their unique interests and preferences. There is no one perfect plan for raising, educating or supporting a child. Listening to the child is the most important thing you can do in order to ensure that you're meeting their needs.
However, if you work each of the following ten things into your child's life in some way, you'll quickly see them reap the benefits. For each of the points below, we'll also offer some concrete examples that you can use as templates for the children in your own life.
Studies on the mental health of children repeatedly show that their self-esteem and sense of identity are negatively impacted when you compare them to other children. Whether you draw comparisons between them and their siblings, classmates, or even fully grown family members, you instill insecurity rather than confidence.
Instead of focusing on competitiveness, concentrate on the unique qualities of this particular child's achievement. And if you're a parent who finds themselves obsessed with raising a “better” child than other people, it's incumbent on you to work out why you have this need and what you can do to counteract it.
On a related note, even if you don't compare a child to other people, they'll quickly learn that society values accomplishments and will feel pressure to perform in certain areas. It's really important that you not only acknowledge the things they excel at but also the things that inspire them to work hard and make an effort.
Experts on childhood cognition say that the best way to approach this is to focus not on what the child is (e.g. “You're so smart!”) but instead to focus on the process in which the child is engaging (e.g. “You're really concentrating on that!”).
When a child is under your care, it's completely natural to want to protect them from harm (both physical and emotional).
However, research published in a leading psychology journal suggests that there are long-term negative consequences of preventing your child from ever facing any kind of adversity. While it's vital to keep children safe, they will become resilient if they face at least some obstacles and are allowed to take calculated risks. So, although it is sometimes appropriate to be cautious, make sure you don't monitor children so much that you stifle their growth and discourage them from learning bravery.
There are lots of things you can allow children to do in order to help them acquire a solid sense of responsibility. Good examples include small household chores, caring for a pet, and assisting you in the garden. While you might already think this is a good idea, you may not have considered exactly why it matters so much.
Experts say that this autonomy and responsibility gives children a sense that they are capable, adaptable people. On the contrary, trying to micromanage children typically leads them to believe that there are many things they can't do. This can limit their happiness not only in childhood but also in adulthood.
When you have certain habits, structured activities, and group events, you create a sense of a stable household for a child.
There are dozens of different ways to establish family traditions, so you can tailor them to your family's preferences. In fact, researchers working at the Childhood Development Institute note that family traditions are important in at least five different ways.
Specifically, these traditions:
Don't mistake fostering a child's happiness with entirely excluding negative emotions. If you discourage a child from expressing sadness, anger, envy, or fear then they learn to repress certain feelings and also never learn that difficult emotions have real value.
So, when your child displays one of these feelings, don't punish them or give them the impression that the feelings are real.
Instead, focus on teaching them productive, healthy ways to explore and move through their negative feelings. Help children to understand that everyone experiences these types of emotions and that they can be useful learning experiences.
It may be useful to share some examples from your own life with older children.
This tip might seem obvious, but researchers are keen to remind us that we might underestimate the importance of making happy memories with children. This actually teaches children to be both happy and compassionate adults.
For example, in one study conducted at Harvard, psychologists found that adults recalling positive memories from childhood were thereafter more likely to help with a task, evaluate negative behavior as inappropriate, and give more money to charity.
So, when you plan a great trip, laugh with your children or play a game, you are creating experiences that will encourage morally good, loving behavior later in life.
It's tempting to think a lot about childhood education and to encourage children to do as many edifying activities as possible. That being said, it's so important to allow children to enjoy a life without the weight of adult concerns. This is especially important in the very young, but there's strong evidence that it matters all the way up to adolescence.
Professor Gray from Boston College's psychology department explains that play actually provides opportunities for children to learn from each other. In addition, it allows them to experiment with their imaginations, develop social skills and learn about their preferences.
Whether you're a parent, an auntie, or an educator, try your best to be mindful of the adult problems that you expose children to in everyday life. Remember that they are neurologically developing at an incredibly fast rate and that being around adult conflict can foster insecurity, anxiety, and confusion.
If you need to have a difficult conversation with another adult, take it to a different room and make sure you're not overheard.
Further, do your best to remain calm, cordial, and reasonable with other adults any time you're in front of children, even if you have unresolved issues to deal with.
Finally, don't forget that one of the best things you can do for children is to cultivate happiness in your own life. This not only gives them a positive atmosphere in which to thrive but also models how people can successfully engage and overcome challenges.
Maintaining your own happiness involves regularly taking time for your own hobbies. Plus, try to work on things that are holding you back in your emotional life, and holding healthy boundaries in your relationships with other adults. The children in your life likely care a lot about your happiness. So if you're smiling and having a great time, they'll feel free to relax and do the same.
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