Emotional health is important for raising happy, healthy kids.

What do you want for your children? I just want them to be happy! How often have you heard this, or said this yourself, in response to the question? We also want our children to have success in school and on the playground, we want them to be respectful and have manners, to do well on the sports field and/or on the stage.  

So, how do you measure success? Good grades, more points on the soccer field, positive interpersonal experiences? As adults, we tend to measure our successes in objective ways such as professional success (i.e, promotion at work) or personal successes (i.e., getting married). There is a positive correlation between success and happiness although in children, it is not as objective a measurement. 

How do you measure happiness?! Happiness, by its very nature, is a subjective and personal experience. Positive Psychology experts study the science of happiness and define subjective well being as “your evaluations of a) your own life and b) your moods and emotions.” If what we want most for our children is for them to be happy, we must look at the personal and subjective nature of happiness and and consider predictors of happiness.

Professor Richard Laynard, a UK happiness expert, suggests “Emotional health in childhood is the key to future happiness.” Read between the lines: NOT finances, not good grades, not success on the stage or the sports field. 

Emotional health in children begins at a very early age. Their happiness through the different chapters of their development are significant predictors of whether they will grow into healthy and happy adults. Yes, success in and out of the classroom and with peers plays a role but one may argue it is more of a response to happiness than the cause of it.  

Emotional health in childhood is the key to future happiness.

Consider these secrets to raising a happy child and remember - each child is different so these secrets may need to be adapted to best meet your child’s needs.

1. Be a happy adult. 

Our children are always looking to us for example. If you want to raise healthy happy children to be healthy happy adults, start by focusing on your own happiness. This doesn’t mean you’ll always be happy - that’s unrealistic!  What it does mean is you’ll be modeling for your children what a healthy happy life looks like - bumps and all!

2. Foster relationships. 

Your child wants to feel loved, understood and wanted. They want this through relationship with you and, as they age, relationship with others. Help them to foster and maintain relationships with their family, peers, neighbors and community. “A connected childhood is the key to happiness”, Edward Hallowell, MD, child psychiatrist and author of The Childhood Roots of Adult Happiness

3. Teach emotional intelligence. 

Please refer back to #1!! Teach your child what you practice. Empathize, label and validate their emotions. Explain to them that a range of emotions are normal and healthy. It’s important to identify what the emotions are, validate them as real and help your child understand how to cope with them and express them in a healthy and productive way.

4. Practice gratitude. 

Gratitude has been consistently shown to have a positive impact on an individual’s happiness. The more mindful and grateful we are of our surroundings, the happy we tend to be! Practice being grateful with your child on a regular basis - for the big things (i.e, I’m so grateful for your health) and for the smaller things (i.e, I’m so grateful for the sun shining today).

5. Praise.

We all want to know that what we’re doing is appreciated, children especially. They’re learning so much everyday and working hard at trying to get it right. When you see them working hard at the things you’ve taught them and modeled for them, tell them! Positive reinforcement for a job well done takes little time but goes a long way on the road to personal happiness.

About Annemarie Lange

Annemarie Lange is a licensed professional counselor in the Philadelphia area that utilizes mindfulness and meditation to help her clients deal with a variety of challenges.

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