Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids: Raise Well-Adjusted Children In Today’s World
Virtually all parents want their children to be happy, but sometimes it can seem far more difficult than you ever would have imagined. Especially in today’s tech-focused, increasingly chaotic world, it can be challenging to help children navigate the ups and downs of their youth. Even if you have little to no control over what your child experiences when they aren’t in your care, you do have a say over the environment they spend most of their time in: their home. But how do you cultivate a positive, supportive environment for your children, and what can you do to help them grow into well-adjusted adults?
Why Your Peace Matters
Many guardians and parents put themselves through a lot to make their children happy. They may stay in relationships that don’t make them happy because they think it's best for their children. They might remain at a job that drains them because they think it's best for their children. Sacrificing your own happiness may seem to benefit your children, but the reality is rarely so simple. In fact, in many cases, the number one thing you can do for your children is strive to be happy yourself.
The truth is children aren't quite as naïve as we tend to think they are. They pick up on things a lot faster than we expect them to, which can affect how they see us and themselves. For example, coming home frustrated and snapping at your children might seem relatively minor. But on the opposite end, seemingly unprovoked negativity can be confusing and upsetting.
When you are happy, it likely shows in the way you parent your child. Of course, this is not to say that there’s no room for mistakes in parenting or that caregivers of children ought to be perfect. Instead, it can be important to recognize the role that your own influence–behavior, choice of words, reactions, etc.–can have over your child’s sense of self. Children may internalize the things that they see in you or the way they interact with you. Many experiences a child encounters are a “first” for them; little moments can leave a lasting impact.
As a result, if you’re hoping to ensure your children grow up to be as happy and successful as they can be, you’ll likely need to first focus on leading by example. Take care of yourself, stand up for your own happiness, and be sure to teach your children that they’re worth doing the same.
Raising Happy Children
So, if the first step to raising happy children is for you to be peaceful and happy yourself, what do you do after the fact? Focusing on developing confidence and autonomy, establishing consistency, and building strong relationships can be a great place to start. By helping your child in each of these areas and more, you’ll likely be giving them the tools they’ll need to handle conflict and challenges on their own as they mature. Let’s take a closer look.
Confidence And Autonomy
It's typically extremely important that your children feels like they can make decisions for themselves. The level of decision-making that you allow them may vary based on how old the child is, but even young children can find opportunities to express their autonomy.
Try not to be afraid to let your child make mistakes and learn how to solve them independently. You might, for example, let them choose their clothes in the morning or establish their homework schedule. When mistakes do happen, take them as an opportunity to teach rather than punish. Letting children choose for themselves can help with decision-making skills, communication skills, and learning how to balance successes and failure. These things may help your child gain confidence in themselves, their own feelings, and their ability to do whatever they set their minds to.
Consistency can be crucial for a child, especially if they’re on the younger side. Your child can benefit immensely from knowing what they can expect from you and from others. Self-discipline and accountability are also important personal skills that consistency may help develop. From consequences to rewards and expectations, keeping things consistent can help your child develop a sense of trust and understanding of their own responsibilities. A child who sometimes has to clean the mess they’ve made and other times doesn’t, for example, may struggle to learn the importance of personal accountability or cleaning up after oneself. That doesn’t mean that your parenting needs to be rigid; consistency is about setting expectations and ensuring they are followed.
Encourage your child to form friendships and get to know others their own age. Friendships can allow them to explore new things and expand their horizons. Encourage them to create at least a few strong, deep friendships when possible. It can be quite significant for your child to have a place where they can be themselves that isn't just within your own home. In many cases, this alternate environment is the home of a close friend. Friendships can also teach your child important interpersonal skills, like communication, problem-solving, and conflict resolution. Strong relationships in and out of the home can also model what healthy behavior looks like, which may help your child avoid toxic or unhealthy relationships.
Your child may not be perfect. No matter how great they are at things, they'll likely never be 100% flawless at everything, and you shouldn't expect them to be. Perhaps even more importantly, they shouldn't feel like you expect them to be. How you react to your child’s successes and failures can set the stage for their own self-talk and self-esteem. It’s often important to encourage your child to try their best truly, but it can be equally vital to view their shortcomings as a part of who they are: a human.
Let Them Play
Playtime can be crucial for children, especially during their younger years. Play allows them to express themselves, explore new things, and to act out whatever they want. As a result, play can encourage creativity and promote learning. It may also allow your child to work on fine and gross motor skills. Encourage your child to play and play frequently, and try to find ways to involve yourself in the fun, too!
Keep Them Positive
Along the same lines of not expecting perfection comes teaching your children not to expect perfection from themselves. Try not to let them get too down on themselves for missing the catch in the baseball game or getting a lower grade on the test. While it's okay to work with them on ways to do better in the future, it can be just as important to let them know also that failure is a natural and necessary part of life.
Teach Coping Skills
When your child does feel upset, let them know that it's okay to feel intense emotions. It can also be a good idea to work with them to discover what coping skills they need to have to overcome those feelings. You can introduce a few different options, but it’s generally best to let your child make the decision about how to implement them in their lives.
When it comes down to it, there's a lot that you can do to help your child to be better adjusted and better prepared for the life they will have going forward. Whether your child is young or is a teenager already, you can help put them on the right path by modeling healthy behaviors yourself. Doing so can be easier said than done, though, especially when the challenges of caring for a child overwhelm you. Sometimes, a little extra help makes a huge difference.
A licensed mental health professional can offer valuable insight and support as you work to raise your child. Online therapy makes it easier than ever for busy parents and guardians to reach the care they deserve on their own time, at their own pace. No more driving to and from in-person offices while juggling childcare; you can speak with your therapist from the comfort of your home or wherever your day might take you.
The benefits of online therapy go beyond working on parenting techniques – it can help you balance self-care with childcare. This can be especially important if you haven't focused on your own happiness in a long time. Studies show that online therapy is an effective treatment option for various mental health disorders. Even if you aren’t living with a mental health condition, things like stress, poor self-esteem, worry, and other common parts of parenthood can be addressed by a therapist.
There likely is no one way to parent a child perfectly, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t ways to increase the likelihood that your child grows up happy and healthy. By practicing what you preach, encouraging your child to take risks, and offering a supportive and positive home environment, among other things, you can help set your child up for success. Remember to take care of yourself, too!