We all want the same things for our kids. We want them to grow up to love and be loved, to follow their dreams, to find success. Mostly, though, we want them to be happy. But just how much control do we have over our children's happiness?
The surest way to promote your child's lifelong emotional well-being is to help him feel connected—to you, other family members, friends, neighbors, daycare providers, even to pets. "A connected childhood is the key to happiness," says Edward Hallowell, M.D., child psychiatrist and author of The Childhood Roots of Adult Happiness. Dr. Hallowell points as evidence to the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, involving some 90,000 teens, in which "connectedness"—a feeling of being loved, understood, wanted, acknowledged—emerged as by far the biggest protector against emotional distress, suicidal thoughts, and risky behaviors including smoking, drinking, and using drugs.
Fortunately, we can cement our child's primary and most crucial connection—to us—simply by offering what Dr. Hallowell calls the crazy love that never quits. "It sounds hokey, and it's often dismissed as a given," he says, "but if a child has just one person who loves him unconditionally, that's the closest thing he'll ever get to an inoculation against misery." It's not enough, however, simply to possess that deep love; your child must feel it, too, Dr. Hallowell says. Hold your baby as much as possible; respond with empathy to his cries; read aloud to him; eat, snuggle, and laugh together.
Meanwhile, provide chances for him to form loving connections with others as well, advises sociologist Christine Carter, Ph.D., executive director of the University of California at Berkeley's Greater Good Science Center, an organization devoted to the scientific understanding of happiness. "We know from 50 years of research that social connections are an incredibly important, if not the most important, contributor to happiness," Carter says. "And it's not just the quality, but also the quantity of the bonds: the more connections your child makes, the better."
Happiness studies consistently link feelings of gratitude to emotional well-being. Research at the University of California, Davis, and elsewhere has shown that people who keep daily or weekly gratitude journals feel more optimistic, make more progress toward goals, and feel better about their lives overall. For a child, keeping a journal may be unrealistic. But one way to foster gratitude in children is to ask that each member of the family take time daily—before or during a meal, for example—to name aloud something he or she is thankful for, Carter suggests. The important thing is to make it a regular ritual. "This is one habit that will foster all kinds of positive emotions," she assures, "and it really can lead to lasting happiness."
Kids need play
BETTA PLAY believes KIDS NEED PLAY ! Kids should have their own playground, playing and exploring on their own. A great kids zone requires children to get a variety of experiences while playing, for example: how to communicate with people, how to share happiness to their little partners, how to teamwork, how to establish the correct values and so on. Wherever they are, in the airport, parks, shopping malls or in the hotel, restaurants, schools, kids should have their own playground whenever they are.