What makes kids happy?

We live in a time when high self-esteem is encouraged early, when young people have more independence than ever, but also far more depression, anxiety, cynicism and loneliness. So how do we help our kids be happy and successful, without becoming what many experts dub the “Entitled Generation”?
Maybe the better question is how much do we control our children’s happiness? We know temperament is partially genetic, but most experts believe environment plays a bigger part. There may be a genetic predisposition for anxiety and depression, but research indicates a variety of factors contribute to a child’s happiness and resiliency. Here are some strategies that will strengthen a child’s capacity for joy and success.
Encourage Connections
One of the biggest resiliency factors is connection between a child and as many other healthy role models as possible. Parents and family members, friends, neighbors, teachers and caregivers all provide a sense of being loved, understood, wanted and acknowledged. Being connected is a huge protector against emotional distress, suicidal thoughts and risky behavior.
Don’t Try So Hard
Trying to keep your child happy in the short-term may hinder his long-term happiness. Granting their every wish teaches kids to expect this in the real world, and they can’t deal with anger, sadness, disappointment or frustration. Kids who don’t learn to deal with negative emotions will be crushed by them as adolescents and adults.
Be Responsible for Your Own Happiness
Children of depressed parents suffer twice the average rate of depression. One of the best things you can do for your child’s emotional well-being is nurture your own. Be a good role model for your child by practicing good self-care.
Give Praise for the Right Reasons
We know that happiness is connected to self-esteem. But praising kids only for their achievements or traits such as intelligence or beauty teaches them that acceptance and approval are conditional. Instead, focus on praising efforts rather than results. Praise the hard work and persistence that goes into achieving, rather than the achievement itself. However, praise is not the only way to increase self esteem.
Allow Them to Fail
We set our kids up for disappointment later in life when we tell them they “can be anything.”  Reality simply doesn’t live up to those expectations. Allowing your child opportunities to learn skills, experience consequences and struggle a bit teaches them perseverance and helps them develop an optimistic attitude for meeting challenges. They also learn responsibility, which gives them a sense of inclusion and contribution.
Teach and Practice Gratitude
Feelings of gratitude are linked to emotional well-being. Being conscious of what we’re thankful for not only makes us more empathetic to the others’ needs but gives us one of our strongest coping skills during difficult times.
Happiness is a Choice
What it boils down to in the end is that sometimes life is hard, expectations are not always met and bad things do happen. Teaching our kids to be responsible for their own happiness rather than looking for it externally is the most important lesson we can teach them.
By Gina Toothaker  LPC, CACIII

By Gina toothakerlpc, cacIIISpecial to the Herald TimesRBC I We live in a time when high self-esteem is encouraged early, when young people have more independence than ever, but also far more depression, anxiety, cynicism and loneliness. So how do we help our kids be happy and successful, without becoming what many experts dub the “Entitled Generation”?Maybe the better question is how much do we control our children’s happiness? We know temperament is partially genetic, but most experts believe environment plays a bigger part. There may be a genetic predisposition for anxiety and depression, but research indicates a variety of factors contribute to a child’s happiness and resiliency. Here are some strategies that will strengthen a child’s capacity for joy and success.Encourage ConnectionsOne of the biggest resiliency factors is connection between a child and as many other healthy role models as possible. Parents and family members, friends, neighbors, teachers and caregivers all provide a sense of being loved, understood, wanted and acknowledged. Being connected is a huge protector against emotional distress, suicidal thoughts and risky behavior.Don’t Try So Hard Trying to keep your child happy in the short-term may hinder his long-term happiness. Granting their every wish teaches kids to expect this in the real world, and they can’t deal with anger, sadness, disappointment or frustration. Kids who don’t learn to deal with negative emotions will be crushed by them as adolescents and adults.Be Responsible for Your Own Happiness Children of depressed parents suffer twice the average rate of depression. One of the best things you can do for your child’s emotional well-being is nurture your own. Be a good role model for your child by practicing good self-care.Give Praise for the Right Reasons We know that happiness is connected to self-esteem. But praising kids only for their achievements or traits such as intelligence or beauty teaches them that acceptance and approval are conditional. Instead, focus on praising efforts rather than results. Praise the hard work and persistence that goes into achieving, rather than the achievement itself. However, praise is not the only way to increase self esteem.Allow Them to Fail We set our kids up for disappointment later in life when we tell them they “can be anything.”  Reality simply doesn’t live up to those expectations. Allowing your child opportunities to learn skills, experience consequences and struggle a bit teaches them perseverance and helps them develop an optimistic attitude for meeting challenges. They also learn responsibility, which gives them a sense of inclusion and contribution.Teach and Practice Gratitude Feelings of gratitude are linked to emotional well-being. Being conscious of what we’re thankful for not only makes us more empathetic to the others’ needs but gives us one of our strongest coping skills during difficult times.Happiness is a Choice What it boils down to in the end is that sometimes life is hard, expectations are not always met and bad things do happen. Teaching our kids to be responsible for their own happiness rather than looking for it externally is the most important lesson we can teach them.