Kids are intrinsically happy, aren’t they? Well, in part it’s true, although those frontal lobes, where emotions are formed, are programmed through experiences in those early years. So it’s likely that a happy childhood can lead to a happy, positive outlook. Doesn’t that fill you with a sense of responsibility?
So, whilst much of your child’s outlook is in your hands, they can have a profound impact on you too. One way is by teaching you to live in the moment. Play and laugh like there is no tomorrow.
That’s easier to do at some times than others. On holiday, for example. But when school and work life is back on the agenda, with the daily routine, pressing deadlines and office politics, you can quickly discard that devil-may-care approach. You become grouchy, stressed and short tempered. You scowl more than you smile and your child’s cerebral cortex is taking it all in. Perhaps the world isn’t as much fun as he or she first thought.
Clearly, you have to reprogram yourself. Have more fun. Live for the moment. And assure your child that the world is a fun place to be. Here are some tips on achieving that when the going gets tough.
1. Do more exercise with your kids. There is lots of research showing that being active is linked to feeling happy. Just think of all those endorphins that are released while you jump, run or cycle around.
2. Do what they love. It’s easy to get bogged down quickly with the new school routine, so make sure they still have time to do the things they really enjoy, like playing with their (newish) toys, bike riding or doing some quiet craft. Allow them do it simply for the experience and the joy of self-expression.
3. Encourage connectedness. Help forge new class room relationships by facilitating some playdates after school or on the weekend. Research shows that children who have at least one good friend learn how to deal with everyday obstacles and succeed.
4. Create one-on-one time. If you have more than one child, spend time with each child individually, even if it’s just for 10 minutes. That special time with a parent helps the child feel special and to bond with you. You could read, tell stories, sing, dance or play games together. Sorry, watching the TV together doesn’t count.
5. Practise being thankful every day for the small things that make our lives more joyful. I know, I’m starting to sound like a church minister, but there’s science behind this. The Harvard Medical School says that, “Gratitude or thankfulness helps people feel more positive emotions, relish good experiences, improve their health, deal with adversity and build strong relationships”. It could be something small like sharing a beautiful feather from a bird on the ground through to teaching your kids just to say ‘thanks’ a lot more.
Finally, look after your own happiness. Kids absorb everything from us, so our moods matter and happy parents have happy kids according to Dr Bob Murray, a clinical psychologist and author of ‘Creating Optimism’. He says that one of the best things we can do for your child’s emotional well-being is to attend to yours. So look after your frontal lobes too!