Kid with balloon


Happy child. Happy adult?

24 July 2020

Every parent has hopes and aspirations for their child, but above all they just want them to be happy. A study by researchers from the University of Cambridge and the MRC Unit for Lifelong Health and Ageing, found that happiness in childhood is linked to increased well-being in adulthood.  Happy children were much less likely than others to develop mental health disorders throughout their lives - 60% less likely than young teens that had no positive ratings.

So how do you raise happy children?

As parents it can be difficult to thread the line between giving your child what you believe to be in their best interests and giving your child what makes them happy, but it is possible to strike a working balance.

In so many areas of life, children mimic and are guided by their parent’s behaviour. A good starting point when you are trying to raise your child in a happier environment is to try and be happy yourself. Prioritise your own happiness, have an optimistic outlook on life and allow time to build positive relationships with your spouse (if you have one) and children. 

Gratitude is consistently associated with greater happiness. Being thankful for what they have and what they receive can help your child feel more positive overall, find joy in more experiences and build healthier relationships.

A simple way to foster gratitude in children is to have the entire family express one thing they are grateful for each day at beginning of your evening meal. Encourage your child to think about their day and what has been good about it, discuss their responses and help them reflect on the positive aspects of their day.

Adults with higher levels of self-discipline, who are more able to resist temptation and impulses are often more satisfied and by extension, happier.

Having self-discipline helps your child resist negative temptations and nurtures the resilience needed to achieve long-term objectives. Helping your child develop self-discipline is an effective investment in their future ability to be happy.

Help your child develop self-discipline by removing obvious temptations within their environment. Reward good behaviour and delayed gratification, and communicate (and stick to) agreed plans.

Praise your children for the effort they put into accomplishing a task, not for the achievement from the task. Whether it’s painting a picture or playing sport, praise your child for the effort and hard work that leads to achievement, by focusing on the process they develop a natural desire to continue with an activity.

Consistently stressing the need for achievement can be counterproductive, as failure to achieve a desired outcome can lead to self esteem issues. Let effort be its own reward.

Children have so many opportunities on a daily basis to learn new skills, but as parents it can be tempting to shield them from new experiences out of fear of the unknown or fail of failure. Sometimes it is better to stand back and let children fail. Through practicing by themselves your child can develop new skills, leading to better self-esteem and a can-do attitude.

By doing everything for your child you can foster dependency and fear of failure, but by standing back and letting your child accomplish on their own, they become more optimistic and positive.

As parents we do our very best for our children. Above all providing love, encouragement, support and a safe environment will help equip your child with the tools to be happy, and the resilience to cope with life’s inevitable difficulties.