Happy, optimistic children are the product of happy, optimistic homes.
It seems more than anything else, parents want their children to be happy. But with all of the challenges kids and parents face, happiness is not just a given. Some kids are naturally happy and some are not, right? Not so fast … While temperament comes, at least in part from our genes, that doesn’t mean that ultimate happiness is predetermined, says Bob Murray, author of Raising an Optimistic Child: A Proven Plan for Depression-Proofing Young Children — for Life (McGraw-Hill). “The research clearly shows that a happy child is the product of a happy, optimistic home, regardless of genetic makeup,” Murray says.
The Key to a Happy Child:
1. Unconditional love is perhaps the most obvious thing a parent can give a child, but many moms and dads are unaware of the fact that they don’t reach out to their children. Hug your children daily. Respond with empathy when they’re upset. Listen to them. Talk to them daily. Draw them out. Snuggle, read and laugh together.
2. A connected childhood is essential to happiness for children, says Edward Hallowell, author of The Childhood Roots of Adult Happiness (Ballantine). Parents can help their children feel and get connected by helping them create relationships with other family members, friends, neighbors, classmates and more.
3. Work on your own happiness. Carve out time for yourself so you can relax, rest, enjoy. If YOU are happy, your children will take the lead from your mood.
As your child grows, know that optimism makes a difference in mental health and behavior, especially against the onset of depressive symptoms, says a recent study, “The Effects of Optimism on Adolescent Health Risks,” published in Pediatrics, the peer-reviewed journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics. Thousands of kids age 12 – 14 years were assessed over three years on optimistic thinking style, emotional problems, substance use and antisocial behaviors. At any given time, optimistic kids were doing much better in terms of health risks.
Raising happy children is possible. And while it may sound corny, love IS what makes the world go around.