6 things children need for true happinessby Flint Stephens on 09/04/14
Parents consciously and indirectly devote much of their time, effort
and money to trying to make their children happy. When the focus is
primarily on providing a big house, elaborate vacations, toys or
technological gadgets, however, those efforts often miss the mark.
Regardless of age or personality, there are some key elements
for helping children find happiness. These elements can generally be
divided into structure or support. Structural elements are things that
help children feel secure and stable. Examples include providing
consistent rules and boundaries and establishing routines. Support
elements provide an emotional foundation and help children feel safe.
Here are some examples:
Eat real meals at regular times
Children like schedules. They like to be able to look at a clock
and know that lunch is at 12:30 and dinner is at 6. More than that,
they like to share those mealtimes with a parent. There are numerous
scientific research studies about the benefits of family meals
including things like lower rates of drug use and lower rates of teen
pregnancy. Other studies show significant health benefits for children
who eat home-cooked meals on a regular basis.
Have set bed times
Katie Hurley, a child and adolescent psychotherapist and
parenting expert wrote: “Kids need to learn how to sleep. It's up to us
to teach them. When they are completely exhausted, they are cranky. When
they are well-rested and ready to embrace the day, they are happier.”
Bed times must be consistent. When parents give in to begging and allow
children to stay up late, the message kids get is that they can get
their way if they beg or cry with sufficient determination.
Schedule spontaneous play
Again, there are many studies touting the benefits of
unstructured play on the development of young children. In an
overscheduled world, it can be difficult to find time for child’s play. A
study by the American Academy of Pediatrics found that children without unstructured play time experienced higher levels of stress.
One solution is to schedule blocks of open time without
homework, music lessons, sports practices, etc. Instead of letting
children fill those blocks with television or computer games, send them
outdoors to build a fort, catch bugs or just to play kids’ games.
Children who have not had much experience with unstructured play might
need some guidance from an older sibling, cousin, friend or even a
A 2007 study by The Associated Press and MTV asked teens and
young adults what made them happy. The top answer was spending time with
family. Three-fourths of the respondents in the same survey said they
like to spend time with their parents. Young children like family
activities even more than older children do. Activities with extended
family and family traditions create connections and bonds that can help
children develop confidence and feel secure.
Sometimes there can be a fine line between spending quality time
with children and too much smothering. The term “helicopter parenting”
refers to parents who become over involved in their children’s lives and
activities. According to Parents.com,
“helicopter parenting can be revealed through a parent ensuring a child
has a certain teacher or coach, selecting the child's friends and
activities, or providing disproportionate assistance for homework and
school projects.” Children need to experience both success and failure
for proper emotional development. They also need to know their parents
trust them enough to do things on their own.
Be an example
Happy children come from families with happy parents. Parents
can teach their children to be grateful and humble by exhibiting those
traits themselves. Conversely, when parents are critical or depressed
they often pass those attributes on to their children.