We all love fleeting happiness. It feels fantastic in the moment. The challenge we faced with it is the moment leaves quickly, and unhappiness shows up at the door. The following are ways to strengthen your children’s growing sense of lasting happiness, so they don’t have to go from joy to pain, and back again continuously. Children can learn how to become happier, understand their emotions, and point in a direction that continually feeds their joy.
Have you ever noticed the more you place the focus on helping others, the more there is this “magic” that occurs, and you end up feeling happier. The thinking goes from “me, me, me” to “we, we, we” and you forget all the things that you were bothered by. The same is true for children. Guiding children to help others, share their toys, hold the door open, and volunteer as they get older, and participate in a “bigger” way in life are all ways to help them grow a happy heart. Recently, I had a client who volunteered to help his elderly neighbor clean up their yard, and the same family invited some foster youth over for a 4th of July barbeque. Whether it’s a smile, a nice word, or some other helping you or your children can do it is a recipe for happier life experiences.
Using Challenges as Opportunities
You can guide children to see situations as challenges to learn from, and opportunities to move in a better feeling direction. Think of challenges as stepping-stones to something better. For example, in my book: The Happiness Workbook for Kids, I have an activity where children put a problem inside a box (square) and they put on each of the four sides something they can learn from it. So, say, they wrote: My BFF is moving away. They can learn to: 1) Keep in touch on Facetime, and play videos games together in different places, 2) Make new friends, 3) Visit each other, and 4) Wish her good luck (even though it’s hard) in her new school. Learning from challenges, and pointing toward a better feeling situation makes children happier – every single time.
Calming the Mind
The number one thing I recommend to parents, especially new parents, is to help their children calm. Children who learn to calm themselves can often stop before making not-so smart choices. Some calming strategies to learn alongside your children include: Breathing techniques (for example, flower breath, hand on heart, hot soup all in The Happiness Workbook for Kids), Mindfulness (for example, can you spot all the red on our walk), Creative outlets, Exercise, and more. The aim is for your children to slow down, calm, and make those better choices even with tricky emotions! (Tip: Have your child teach you the activities, and they’ll be the feelings boss!)
Becoming happier is a skill for children to learn – just like reading, counting, and making their own peanut butter and jelly sandwich. The aim is to have fun with it. Fill up your happiness bucket as a family and be creative. Do happiness experiments like gardening, going to the zoo, making a new recipe, watching a funny movie, or something deeper – helping others, learning to meditate or take a mindfulness walk. The door to lasting happiness is open for children, and they can learn to create real happiness sooner rather than later!
Maureen Healy is a child therapist, mindfulness author, and leader in the field of children’s emotional health and happiness education. She writes for Psychology Today, and her books include: The Happiness Workbook for Kids (PESI), The Emotionally Healthy Child (preface from Dalai Lama) and Growing Happy Kids (HCI Books). Learn more about working with her, or reading her books: growinghappykids.com