The focus of the month was on Santosha (translated as “contentment” or “happiness”), one of the five personal disciplines of the yoga philosophy. When I taught for years in international schools, I was particularly curious about what makes children happy around the world. Now, as a mom to a two-year-old, I have been thinking a lot about how to raise a happy child. Below are a few things I have discovered or read over the past couple of years.
10 Tips for Raising a Happy Child:
1. Be happy yourself. When my husband and I are happy as parents, our daughter clearly feeds off our positive energy. One of the reasons I started Kids Yoga Stories when she was nine months old was because I wanted to do something that made me happy so I could be a more joyful mom and have more patience to get through the challenges of raising a child.
2. Visit family and friends. As expats living in a city with very few friends who have children, we have to put forth extra effort to ensure that our daughter builds strong relationships with others. The logistical challenges of traveling to different countries to spend time with family has been worth every airplane tantrum. Research backs up the impact of quality relationships on people’s happiness.
3. Sleep and eat well. Helping our daughter develop good sleep habits is a priority for our family. No matter what the day brings or where we are in the world, we always stick to our daily naptime and bedtime rituals. Eating healthy food is also essential. Our daughter is always happier when she sleeps and eats well.
4. Live an active lifestyle. Our daughter thrives when she is practicing yoga, swimming, or walking to the park. She is much happier when she gets her daily exercise. I recently read a research study that stated active parents breed active children. It was enough to inspire me to start jogging again.
5. Be in nature. Going for walks in the forest and strolling through the botanical gardens are highlights for our daughter. She loves discovering new places and watching out for animals. The fresh air and beauty of nature brings her joy. We also like hanging out in our garden together.
6. Have dinner together. We have heard from numerous sources that having dinner together as a family is the best thing you can do to raise a happy, well-balanced child. Years ago, I asked one of the moms in my classroom what she did to raise such a friendly, happy, and kind child. She said that every night at dinner, each family member had five minutes to talk about whatever he or she wanted to discuss. What a brilliant idea!
7. Read books. Our reading times before naptime and bedtime are my favorite times of the day. Our daughter’s face lights up with excitement when we read together. I love discovering new books, and she loves reading them. We go on adventures together with the stories and sometimes act them out together through kids yoga poses.
8. Follow your passion and interests. For example, our daughter clearly loves animals. We visit zoos, farms, duck ponds, or parks to see animals. We use her animal figurines to point out different animals in her books. She gets excited when she can say the names and sounds of the animals. We talk about our passions, as well, and share our gratitude for our treasured lives.
9. Sing and dance. Playing the piano and singing songs with her nana is definitely a highlight for our daughter. Playing music and dancing in the front room sparks laughter. Singing and dancing is also a great way for our whole family to connect while cherishing the present moment.
10. Promote lifelong learning. It is so rewarding to see the look of satisfaction on our daughter’s face when she accomplishes something new. I can feel her pride as she pretends to read, tries counting to ten, sorts the groceries, sings a new song, or balances on her bike. Learning a new skill is fun, and we hope to model a love of lifelong learning for our daughter, as well.
Other Happiness resources:
- 10 ways to make Happiness a daily practice
- Happiness Around the World
- Raising Happiness, a parenting book by Christine Carter
- Anna and her Rainbow-Colored Yoga Mats, a kids yoga book on happiness by Kids Yoga Stories
What are your tips for raising a happy child? I would love to hear your story!