Raising a happy child is no child’s game. Even the best of us often fail to do it. You know why? Most of us believe that our own definition of happiness will somehow align with our child’s definition of happiness. It doesn’t work that way, matey.
Khalil Gibran wrote “Your children are not your children. They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself. They come through you but not from you, And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.”.
The above lines might feel like a punch in the gut right now but they are true, nonetheless.The earlier you learn that your children are unique individuals with unique aspirations, the better for both of you.
I was divorced 5 years after my twins were born which made raising emotionally healthy kids tougher than usual. Things got messy and ugly at times. But I like to believe that I managed it somehow. Eric and John turned 15 two weeks ago.
They are intelligent, funny, empathetic and get along with everyone better than I could ever do. I mean, they are still just as dazed and confused as a regular teen at times. But we manage. The occasional goof-ups add spice to our otherwise quiet life in the city.
It’s like they are a cooler version of me and I am only responsible for like 20% of it. The rest are all them.
As a parent, especially a single parent, there’s only so much you can do. I can understand if you are feeling a bit frazzled and helpless at the moment. Look, I don’t know exactly what’s troubling you at this very moment but I’m here to help.
Here are a few things you can do (and should do) to help your kids to have a happy and healthy childhood:
Happy Kids Rules:
Be the One Who Feels Like Home
According to a study by the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health which involved 90,000 teens, the feeling of being loved, wanted and understood acts as the biggest barrier against emotional angst. I can tell you from my personal experience that most of the things said in that study is true.
Now, you might think that every parent loves his kid. That’s a no-brainer. Well, loving alone is not enough. You have to show it too. Laugh with them, play, snuggle, give them a tight hug when they’re crying. It’s important that your children know that there are people who love them unconditionally and will be there for them no matter what.
Sunshine on Their Shoulders
There’s substantial scientific backing to prove that playing out in the open, running bare-feet on the grass in the sun get those happy hormones flowing. While a 2017 study in the Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport suggests that increased outdoor playing time leaves a positive impact on emotional wellbeing, another study says it can also improve your childrens’ social skills.
So the next time your school going kid subtly expresses his wish to get a cool outdoor toy like a scooter or bike, don’t hesitate. There are plenty of safe and well-designed scooters for kids available and above that fit every budget.
Less TV, More Talk
It doesn’t take a genius to understand that unlimited screen time is bad for anyone, let alone a child. Today’s kids are tech-savvy right out of the womb which makes our job more difficult.
Snatching away the remote or simply asking him to put down his phone won’t work. What you can do is set some ground rules such as no T.V or phone during dinner time and most importantly, lead by example. If you remain glued to the TV and phone whenever you get spare time, your kids will follow your lead.
Instead, use your free time for non-screen activities that can be done with your kids. For example, bake together or teach your kids how to play chess, solve puzzles together. Netflix and Instagram can wait.
Actually listening to our kids instead of constantly dropping our two cents is parenting 101. Giving undivided attention to your children doesn’t mean you will have to make your world revolve around them. That’d be too much.
What I mean to say is that don’t be on your phone or just nod when your kids are talking. Look interested. Be actually interested. Your thoughtful response can help them effectively communicate their thoughts and feelings to others as well in future
The Sacred Art of Stress Management
Make sure your children know that it’s okay not to feel okay at times. If you see your junior upset in a family party, don’t force him to forget everything, put on a fake smile and join the crowd. It’s important to acknowledge their feelings, even if it seems unreasonable or menial to you at the very moment.
Dealing with stress, anxiety and negative emotions is not easy for anyone. If you expect your children to grow up to be happy adults, give them a proper outlet to vent out their emotions. Urge them to talk it out and when they do, empathize instead of judging right away.
You have probably heard it before but I am still going to repeat as a gentle reminder that you are not in charge of your kid’s happiness. If they are sad or stressed at times, it doesn’t imply that you have failed as a parent. It’s very important for everyone to feel negative emotions too at times, you know?
Your job is to teach them how to regulate their emotions and to do so, you will have to let them take the driver’s seat. If your kid is old enough to read and play video games, he is old enough to learn the importance of being self-driven.
In spite of trying to have complete control over his life right now, you should focus on giving him a loving environment and a safe space where he can thrive in their own gentle pace. Everything else will fall into place on their own.