“I won't ever be happy!” My five year old shouted at me arms folded, mouth in a pout, eyes squinting, face far from a smile.
A gut punch. Tear filled my eyes.
I held myself back and instead walked up to him. I knelt down to meet his eyes, unfolded his arms, and I held him.
I had said to him, “Choose to be happy. You have control over how you react.”
I do believe that statement, otherwise I would not have said it. I also regretted saying the words so matter of factly. Happiness is not granted to each of us equally. Some of us have to work harder than others to achieve happiness. We have to work on our habits and our thoughts, much more than the average person.
How to Help Your Child Smile More Often
I needed to acknowledge that much to him: “I know, I know, you would choose to be happy if you could. I'll help you.”
With that interaction, I took off researching how to help my child be happier. Is is even possible? Yes, yes it is. If I am cranky or unhappy, maybe I have eaten poorly that week, or perhaps I have not gone to bed early enough. Those habits I can control. I can help guide my son to developing habits and behaviors that will grant him more happiness. I can't help him if I don't honor his personality and natural tendencies. Helping him know himself is a critical part of my role as his parent.
5 Ways to Help Your Child Be Happier
- Keep a gratitude journal, together, or not. The simple act of writing down and acknowledging the goodness in life helps us be happier.
- Remind him he can ‘choose to be happy' but honor his unique qualities. Guide him to know himself and his tendencies.
- Celebrate small victories in life with a bang! No victory is too small!
- Embrace the spontaneous dance party. In short, laugh more often! Have fun! Be joyful!
- Model good habits and healthy behavior. Acknowledge out loud, “I really would rather have ice cream for dinner but I am going to choose steak because my body needs it.”
Accepting and honoring our unique qualities goes a long way in shaping a child's self esteem and self awareness. Guide the child to accept who he is and work with the qualities to use them to his advantage. Avoid the gut punch of your five year old telling you that he'll never be happy. A five year old should always be happy. Always.
I understand there are circumstances that lead us to seek progressional help. Please don't hesitate to speak to your doctor. There is no shame in mental illness.