What makes a good childhood?
As parents, we want only the best for our children and topping the list is a happy, healthy, well-adjusted little person.
We talked to child development experts to learn some simple ways you can tell if your child is happy.
According to Kumari Ghafoor-Davis, MSW, a social worker and a parent coach and founder of Optimistic Expectations and Dr. Fran Walfish, leading child, teen, parent and family psychotherapist and author in Beverly Hills, California, there are simple ways you can tell your child is happy:
- Is your child talkative, affectionate, smiling, playful, joyful, excited and engaged?
- Does your child communicate directly? Ask your child if he is happy. Explore what feels good and what doesn't. What is changeable and what is not. Create a give and take conversation with your child.
- Does your child have friends and get invited on play dates? If they feel accepted by their peers, and even if they aren’t, are they still comfortable with themselves?
- Does your child isolate at home by staying in their room, or do they stay engaged and connected within the family?
- Does your child have regular sleeping and eating patterns? Have there been changes in their sleeping or eating?
- Have you noticed a sudden dip in their school performance and grades? If they are doing well in school, can they express or show you what they enjoy about school.
- Is your child complaining about their life?
Incidentally, these are signs of happiness for parents too.
It's important to remember that no one is happy all of the time. There are times when your child will feel disappointed, sad or angry. As their parent you need to equip your child with coping skills to deal with disappointments and hurts.
Simple ways to ensure you know your child’s concerns:
- Talk to your children. Ask them what upsets them most and what their fears are.
- Acknowledge their fears and hurts. You may have had the same fears yourself, which you can be honest about (not full disclosure depending on the age of the child of course), but hear them out, listen intuitively and encourage them, using positive words.
- Let your children know that no matter what, you are there for them and will listen and comfort them, with any concern they have.
- Parents should pay attention to children’s moods and how they are coping with school, friends, challenges, triumphs and other social situations, because they can become very important in our children’s lives and can change who they are.
According to Jennifer Little, Ph.D., founder or Parents Teach Kids, a child who is not happy is one who faces many challenges with trepidation and/or fear. Little explains that the child may seem sullen or serious and stern. A unhappy child often has few friends, many fears and poor relationships with authority figures as well as peers. The child could be bullied, or he could be a bully himself. Little says that the unhappy child will often demonstrate aggression, either directly (verbally and/or physically) or passively (resisting engaging with others or following directions, withdrawing, etc.).
Raising a happy child is hard work, but it is something that can be done. As long as you focus on the needs of your child and ensure you are doing all you can to meet them, you will have a healthy and happy child.