The best advice I can give about helping kids understand happiness is to be happy yourself. Your modeling, behavior, language, reactions, goals, habits, mood, and reinforcement all influence how your child will perceive and understand happiness.
If you want your children to be happy, then I believe you first must be happy.
If you are unhappy and you are teaching your children about happiness, then this can create an unhealthy and most likely inaccurate portrayal of true, deep inner contentment.
Whether or not you are generally happy, I believe you can master happiness by learning the following five steps and using them every day, so that happiness becomes part of the conversation. A real practice, a real topic, something that is practiced as a skill in how to best handle mental well-being.
Follow these steps and teach them to your children:
- The Happiness Decision (empowerment)
- Happiness Boosters (positive mood boost)
- Happiness Challenges (resiliency)
- Heart-Based M.A.P.S. (contentment/fulfillment)
- Faith (bliss and joy)
The Happiness Decision -- Empower Yourself:
Reinforce their empowerment over their own mental state by encouraging them to choose happiness whenever they want to feel good. Remind them that in any moment, barring mental health issues such as depression that should be treated by a doctor, they can choose to be happy. And if they allow other people places and things power over their happiness, then they are just giving it away -- and their happiness is so valuable they want to keep it themselves and under their own control.
Happiness Boosters -- Create Positive Mood Whenever You Want:
Teach them how to boost their mood with a happiness practice filled with daily routines of a gratitude, kindness and positive reflection. Encourage dialogue around “I am grateful for _____ because it adds ____ to my life.” Encourage acts of kindness as part of a family contest or even part of allowance or bargaining agreements. At night, ask “What are three good things that happened today and how did you contribute to them?” Gratitude, kindness, and positive reflection aid in mood boosting.
Happiness Challenges -- Tools for Resiliency:
Use acceptance, forgiveness, and compassion to overcome adversity. Teach your children to respond with kindness, love, optimism, gratitude, and zest when placed in an adversarial position. Show them how to see the good that may come from the “bad” in life. Offer multiple perspectives on how acceptance, forgiveness, and compassion are the best ways to respond.
Heart-Based MAPS -- Follow your Heart:
Encourage them to see the deeper meaning and purpose in life or things they are doing in the day-to-day. Encourage them to be true to themselves by having acceptance and confidence with who they are deep inside. Encourage them to use their strengths. or what comes naturally to them in activities and situations that support their strengths.
Faith -- Trust in the Unknown:
When faced with the unknown, encourage faith and trust. We often feel fear or easily project a negative future when it comes to the unknown. Create a sense of empowerment through positive thinking and realistic optimism. Realistic optimism is where you have a realistic goal with an achievable plan and the belief in yourself to achieve it.
So when teaching your kids about happiness, encourage them to be empowered over their own mental state, create a happiness practice of mood-boosting techniques, use happiness tools to respond to adversity, connect with the deeper meaning and purpose in life, be true to themselves, use their strengths, and choose faith*. Then your children will be better equipped to understand happiness as a tangible skill and concept to be learned and mastered.
This is a real opportunity to make a difference in your children’s lives. Implementing these five steps will help create the foundation of a happy family and help your children to understand one of life’s most basic necessities.
How do you teach the children in your life happiness? Please share your best tools and tips in the comments below.
*Please visit our Life Well Lived Glossary for more information about terms used in this post including "faith."
Dr. Aymee Coget, Sustainable Happiness Expert and founder of The Happiness Makeover™ Training Program, offers services and products on how to become happier at her website www.happinessmakeover.com. Ask questions and visit her on Facebook or Twitter (@draymee), or her blog www.draymee.blogspot.com