1 YOU NEED TO BE HAPPY
Christine Carter’s book Raising Happiness: 10 Simple Steps for More Joyful Kids and Happier Parents maintains that, ‘Extensive research has established a substantial link between mothers who feel depressed and negative outcomes in their children, such as acting out and other behaviour problems. Parental depression actually seems to cause behavioural problems in kids; it also makes our parenting less effective.’
The Understanding Society study, where youngsters aged between 10 and 15 in 40 000 UK families were asked how they felt about their home lives, revealed that relationships with mothers and fathers were the most important indicator of happiness. Moreover, ‘Children are happiest when their mothers are happy.’
2 GET YOUR PRIORITIES RIGHT
In UNICEF’s most recent Child Well-being in Rich Countries survey, Dutch kids are ranked as the happiest in the world. According to Findingdutchland.com, this basically boils down to having happy mothers who have lots of personal choice and the fact that the government supports Dutch dads playing a more equal role in child-rearing. Part-time work is commonplace, there are child grants regardless of being employed, and the economy is still highly productive. Interesting too is that glamour, hospitality and charm don’t rate highly on Dutch women’s priority lists. Evidently, reducing pressure on the family as a whole results in happier kids.
3 UP THEIR EQ
Raising happiness cites teaching kids how to build sound relationships through empathy and small acts of kindness as a sure-fire way to inspire feelings of content. Being emotionally intelligent – understanding their own and others’ feelings – is paramount to feeling happy from within, but this isn’t something kids will learn without guidance. In addition, teaching optimism through encouraging a positive outlook is one of the best ways of keeping anxiety and depression at bay.
4 KIDS NEED FREEDOM TO PLAY
In the Netherlands, kids reportedly feel less pressure to excel in school. Less homework means more time spent playing. In contrast, our kids seem overloaded with expectations. On top of this, unless you live in a secure complex, kids have fewer opportunities to play. According to Raising Happiness, ‘Researchers believe that the dramatic drop in unstructured playtime is in part responsible for slowing kids’ cognitive and emotional development… In addition to helping kids learn to self-regulate, child-led, unstructured play (with or without adults) promotes intellectual, physical, social and emotional well-being.’ Play helps kids understand group dynamics through sharing, negotiating, resolving conflicts, regulating their emotions and behaviour, and standing up for themselves.
5 EXPECT GOOD EFFORT, NOT HIGH ACHIEVEMENT
Parents who overemphasise achievement are more likely to have kids with high levels of depression, anxiety and substance abuse compared to other kids. Carol S Dweck, one of the world’s leading researchers in the field of motivation, explains: ‘When we praise children for the effort and hard work that leads to achievement, they want to keep engaging in that process. They’re not diverted from the task of learning by a concern with how smart they might – or might not – look.’
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