When it comes to raising kids, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all parenting method to ensure your child grows up happy and well-adjusted. Every child is individual with unique likes/dislikes, talents and communication style. However, more and more research is concluding that happy kids share certain lifestyle habits. Want to help your child find more contentment in life? Try these 5 habits of happy kids.
1) Happy kids practice gratitude. There is a growing body of research that suggests the more kids practice giving thanks, the happier they become. Those of us who practice gratitude ourselves don’t need research to tell us this. We know when we focus on gratitude in our current circumstances we feel better. The same goes for kids…giving thanks and reflecting on the good in life flexes their happy muscles. Try adding a gratitude practice to your dinner or bedtime routine by sharing three things you are grateful for, out loud, every day. It isn’t easy to practice gratitude all the time, if it was we’d all be happy 24/7. It takes practice…and patience.
2) Happy kids eat regular meals. Are you happy when you’re hungry? ME NEITHER. Blood sugar controlis the cornerstone to raising a happy child. When a child is riding a rollercoaster of blood sugar highs and lows due to skipped meals or carb-heavy snacks, grumpy behavior is unavoidable. Make sure your children are eating regular meals, with adequate protein and healthy brain-building fats to keep them happy.
3) Happy kids feel connected. For years research has shown that social connectedness (i.e. having friendships) is related to happiness and contentment both in childhood and later in life. But new research is taking this idea a step further. Not only are social relationships important, but also feeling that life has meaning and purpose is important to overall satisfaction. Kids who feel their lives have meaning and purpose may even have stronger immune function ! More evidence that our thoughts and feelings impact both our emotional AND physical state.
4) Happy kids know their voice matters. Have you ever noticed that when you “half listen” to your children (as they are telling you a 20 minute story about ants in the park that morning) they just get louder, and louder, and LOUDER?? Even toddlers know the difference between active listening and distracted listening by parents. Being heard, REALLY heard, is so important to the development of self-esteem in children. Also, active listening connects us to each other, so by listening to your child you help to nourish a long and lasting bond together.
5) Happy kids get mad. And they get sad. And they get excited. The point is that happy kids are free to express emotions when they feel them, in the moment, without shame. The timing might not always be ideal for you the parent (i.e. tantrum at Target) but it’s important your child let it out instead of stuffing emotions inside which could lead to bigger psychological problems down the line. Also teaching children that all emotions are temporary (even sadness and anger) will help them to develop healthy habits for dealing with strong emotions in life. A good way to teach children a deeper understanding about feelings and present moment awareness is through a practice of mindfulness .
Are you raising a happy kid? What happy habits help your family? Please share in the comments below!
Heather Haynes, MA, is a nutrition and wellness educator working in the field of whole foods nutrition and holistic health. She is passionate about the health of all children and believes raising happy, healthy kids starts with getting back to basics and cooking with REAL food. Most days you can find her blogging at www.kulamama.com .