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Why You Shouldn’t Always Tell Your Kids To Be Happy

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Why You Shouldn’t Always Tell Your Kids To Be Happy

If you are a really good parent, you might want to think again about how to make your child really happy. Most parents nowadays regard parenting as providing them with love, the latest toys and protecting them from unpleasant experiences. That will make them feel happy and they should always be happy, right? Wrong!

Real life has a fair share of nasty shocks, failures and unhappiness for most of us. If we are taught how to deal with these from an early age, it really is the best way to grow up as confident, happy and well balanced adults. If parents rush in to provide protection, advice and the latest toys, then discomfort, disappointment and setbacks will never be talked about. Here are 4 reasons why you shouldn’t tell your kids to be always happy and why you shouldn’t rush in to fix things and minimize suffering.

1. Buying them a new toy will not teach them about disappointment

Children will have to come to terms early on with disappointment when their favorite toy gets broken. Those parents who offer to buy the kid a new toy are making a mistake. The message the child is getting is that the feelings of sadness, frustration and disappointment are not on the agenda. They are brushed under the carpet or thrown out with the broken toy. Worse still, they never get to talk about those feelings with their parents and when they go though adolescence and adulthood, they will be not be able to deal with them.

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The worst case scenario is where parents buy the child a new toy because it makes them feel less guilty about the lack of time they can dedicate to their kids.

“Parents are driven so much by guilt, especially working parents and single parents. It’s amazing.” – Tom Limbert, Head Teacher of Stanford University’s Bing Nursery School of Child Development Research and Training

Savvy parents will talk about what happened to the toy. It may just have worn out or it may have been handled roughly by the child. Empathize with the child and talk about how things go wrong and we are sometimes disappointed and sad and say that these things happen. You could also talk about how much it costs and whether the child, if they are old enough, could start earning enough doing extra chores to help buy a new one. Teaching them the value of money and saving will help to make them autonomous.

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2. Helicopter parenting does more harm than good in the long term

Parents rush in to intervene when there is a problem at school or when Johnny does get selected for the baseball team. That will keep the kids happy and serene. But the parents will not always be around, will they? Studies show that college students who had these overprotective parents were the ones who were suffering more from depression and were generally less satisfied with life in general. Thanks Mom and Dad!

Parents who take a more relaxed approach and allow their kids to become more competent, reliable and well-balanced are doing a much better job at raising their kids. They allow them to try to get to grips with problem-solving and to deal with setbacks. They talk to them about how they are feeling and ways they can avoid similar things happening. It is just helping to learn to grow up in the real world. Chris Meno, a psychologist at Indiana University, has warned that helicopter parenting leads to depression and anxiety and they also have a tougher time in finding jobs after graduation.

3. How are you teaching your kids to be empowered?

You know how kids always feel that they are entitled to everything they want and parents often feel that they should give in, simply because maybe they themselves had a deprived childhood. But the latest smartphone, the fastest game and trendy clothes are not going to lead to happiness. They may momentarily give pleasure and gratification but this sense of entitlement is dangerous.

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If you hear your kids say that they want things now or they do not want to have to clean up their room or they expect you to fix their problems, then you have a problem with entitlement.

Parents need to instill the ideas that kids have to work for something they want and that money, success and even a job will only come after hard work and study. Teaching them how to learn from failure will also help. These are the ways to lead to empowerment because this is what will really make them happy.

4. Teach your child about how to get and stay connected

“A connected childhood is the key to happiness.”- Dr. Edward Hallowell, child psychiatrist

Parents want their children to be happy, successful and fulfilled. The best way to do that is to show them how to stay connected. Start with yourself by showing them that they are loved, wanted and understood. Help spread that sense of being connected with siblings, relatives, friends and neighbors. Once they have this sense of being loved, they are better protected against the slings and arrows that fortune will throw at them. They will be able to fight off emotional problems of depression and risky behavior such as self-harming. When 90,000 teens were asked what they desired most, they stated that it was this sense of feeling connected.

Teach your child to form loving connections. From a very early age, hold him or her often, play, talk, read, sing and laugh together. As they grow help them to form loving connections through friendship and other social channels. Texting and Instagram do not count!

If you do not believe me, ask Christine Carter who is Director of Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center. She will tell you that 50 years of research have shown that social connections are at the top of the list for helping to create happiness.

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The next time you buy your children a new gadget, ask yourself if they are getting enough of your time, affection and guidance. They say that children thrive when you give them half as many presents and twice as much of your presence.

Featured photo credit: Cute.Sweet.Smile/Muhammad Taslim Razin via flickr.com

More by this author

Robert Locke

Author of Ziger the Tiger Stories, a health enthusiast specializing in relationships, life improvement and mental health.

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Last Updated on October 7, 2021

Why Spending Time With Your Family Is Important (And How To Do So)

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Why Spending Time With Your Family Is Important (And How To Do So)

In today’s chaotic world, having family time isn’t always easy. It can get pretty hard to coordinate schedules, especially if the family is large. Life demands that we work, attend school, nurture friendships, hobbies, etc. All of those things are extremely time-consuming and important—but so is spending time with your family.

Why is family time so important? Because we all need love and support, and a good, strong family can provide that regularly. For children, spending time with their family helps shape them into good, responsible adults, improve their mental health, and develop strong core values.

There are many positive effects of spending time with your family. My family and I, for instance (and this includes grandchildren as well), meet every Tuesday night for dinner and games. My older son and I take turns cooking. This gives all of us a chance to try some new recipes. After dinner, we play games. And without fail, they inspire competitiveness and laughter. As family night has evolved, the grandkids have invited their friends over as well, creating the need for more chairs but also expanding our circle of fun.

Aside from the obvious fun and games, there are other reasons why spending time with your family is paramount. In this article, I will provide you with multiple reasons why spending time with your family regularly is a win-win. And then, I will lay out some ways on how to do it.

Let’s get started, shall we?

Why Spending Time With Your Family Is Important

Here are six reasons why it’s important to spend time with your family.

1. Provides the Opportunity to Bond

When you spend time together as a family—talking about your day, your highs, your lows—it fosters communication. As parents, it gives you the chance to listen to your children, to hear them out, to learn about what’s going on in their world. It also provides you with the opportunity to use life situations as teaching moments.

Before our Tuesday night dinner/game nights, my family used to see each other pretty regularly but not consistently, especially the grandkids. Our family night changed all that. Now, it’s guaranteed that the grandchildren, along with some of their friends, will be there. Not only do I get to find out what’s been happening in their lives, but they also get to know us better. It’s creating memories they can treasure forever, as well as modeling the Get-Together tradition for when they eventually have families of their own.

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“Spending time partaking in everyday family leisure activities has been associated with greater emotional bonding within families.”[1]

2. Teaches the Value of Family

Taking the time to be with your family lets your children know they are valued—that spending time together is a priority. I know that in today’s world, both parents are busy as both usually working. What better way to let your children know they are loved than by carving out time each week to spend with them?

According to Marilyn Price-Mitchell, Ph.D., “words like honesty, trust, fairness, respect, responsibility, and courage are core to centuries of religious, philosophical, and family beliefs. Use them and others to express and reinforce your family values. Teach children the behaviors that flow from these principles. Use quotes to ignite meaningful dinner conversations and encourage kids to talk about these values.”[2]

3. Enhances Mental Well-Being

Spending that quality time together gives your children a safe platform in which to express themselves, ask questions about things that are bothering them, or talk about their day and things they’ve learned. I know that my 9-year old granddaughter can’t wait until it’s her turn to talk about her day. She usually goes on and on and has to be stopped to give everyone else a chance to talk about their goings-on.

“Research shows the quality of family relationships is more important than their size or composition. Whoever the family is made up of, they can build strong, positive relationships that promote wellbeing and support children and young people’s mental health.”[3]

For children, having the opportunity to seek advice from parents they trust—as well as being able to have a sounding board and help with problem-solving—is priceless. In addition, being able to voice their opinions and be heard—and to feel like what they have to say matters—is an esteem-builder. All of these can have a very impactful positive effect on their well-being.

4. Helps the Child Feel Loved

How do you think a child feels knowing their parents want to spend time with them—talking, sharing experiences, playing games, listening to them? It will make them feel as though they are important, and a child that feels important is happier and more apt to thrive. Setting aside chores or work to spend time with your children demonstrates that they’re essential—that they matter. What a gift to give your child!

“If a child has your undivided attention, it signals that they are loved and important to you. This can be further nurtured by experiencing joyful activities together, as it demonstrates that you want to spend time with your children over and above all of the daily demands.”[4]

5. Creates a Safe Environment

If you regularly spend time with your children, you are also creating an atmosphere of trust. The more trust they have, the more likely they are to share with you what’s going on in their world. As they get older, you’re going to want to know. Negative influences can show up at any time, but if you’ve always been there for your child, they are more apt to come to you and ask for your advice.

Spending time together generates familiarity and feelings of being supported. When a child feels safe and comfortable, they’re more likely to open up. This is one way to get to know your child and know what’s on their minds. Are they okay? Do they need your guidance? If so, how?

6. Reduces Stress

This is significant. We all suffer from stress at one point or another in our lives. Spending time with family helps alleviate that stress. It’s an opportunity to talk things out, get feedback, and maybe brainstorm for a solution to the problem that is causing the stress.

According to Brandy Drzymkowski, “During the holidays, your closest five people probably shifts to family and friends. You may even get to see loved ones who live far away. Good news! This can actually help lower your stress levels. Studies show ‘face-to-face interaction…counteracts the body’s defensive ‘fight-or-flight’ response.’ In other words, quality time spent with loved ones is nature’s stress reliever.”[5]

So, now that you know some of the benefits, what are some ideas for making family time happen?

How to Make Family Time Happen

Here are four things you can do to make family time happen and spend more time with them.

1. Family Dinners

This, as I said above, is a wonderful way to spend time together. While you’re having dinner, you have the chance to discuss things that are going on in your lives—the ups, the downs, and everywhere in between. It’s like having a buffer against life’s challenges.

Aside from that, eating dinner together has many additional benefits. Studies have shown that for kids who eat regularly with their families, there is less risk of substance abuse, teen pregnancy, and depression.[6]

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“Our belief in the ‘magic’ of family dinners is grounded in research on the physical, mental and emotional benefits of regular family meals.” It further states, “We recommend combining food, fun and conversation at mealtimes because those three ingredients are the recipe for a warm, positive family dinner—the type of environment that makes these scientifically proven benefits possible.”[7]

According to Parenting NI, “children and adolescents who spend more time with their parents are less likely to get involved in risky behavior. According to studies done by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse via Arizona State University, teens who have infrequent family dinners are twice as likely to use tobacco, nearly twice as likely to use alcohol and one and a half times more likely to use marijuana.”[8]

As you can see, there are multiple benefits to spending time with each other routinely. You can’t go wrong with this family activity.

2.  Regular Movie Nights

This is another fun event, although, from personal experience, I have to caution that choosing a movie that everyone wants to see is not easy. So, give yourselves plenty of time so you don’t spend two hours searching for a movie, and then end up watching no movie at all because the night is practically over. Try and choose a movie before the day, if possible.

Afterward, open it up for discussion. Ask questions pertinent to the movie. What do you think of ABC? Should they have done that? Would you have done something differently? There are so many questions you can ask to spark a conversation and keep the night going.

3. Game Night

This is another occasion for great fun. If you have a competitive spirit, it makes it even more fun. There are numerous games out there—Balderdash, Pictionary, Apples to Apples, Charades, to name a few—that can create fun havoc. All I can say is, on game nights, don’t take yourself too seriously. It’s okay if you lose the game. The fun is in being together, laughing, debating, and having a good time.

In addition, “Playing board games is great for children for many reasons besides the obvious; it’s fun to play games! Age appropriate games can help children to think strategically, solve problems creatively, work on pattern recognition and build simple math skills. They also help children develop social skills such as following rules, taking turns, and graceful winning or losing. Additionally, a family game night provides an opportunity for children to bond with siblings, parents and family members as well as peers. It can promote tradition building and establish a fun routine.”[9]

So, go find your family a game and start having fun!

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4. Sharing a Hobby

If you and one of your kids like to do the same things, do it more often. For example, my oldest son and his teenage son go on long bike rides together on the weekends. Not only do they get to exercise, but they also get to talk and look at beautiful sceneries. They’ve also incorporated cooking into their routine. They plan the meal, shop, and prepare—activities that bring them closer together.

Sharing a hobby is a great way to bring family members together. It bonds people in amazing ways. According to Alison Ratner Mayer, LICSW, “One of the easiest and most important ways to build a child’s self-esteem is to spend time with them doing something not only that they enjoy but something that you also enjoy. There is a special magic that happens between a parent and a child when they share a mutually beloved activity. It sends the message to the child that their parents are having fun, true, honest, real fun, with them.”[10]

Final Thoughts

Spending time with the family is an investment. It is an investment in the happiness, well-being, and security of that system. It can also serve as a way to break out of the daily rut and the constant worldly demands, while at the same time, building a strong family unit.

Even though it isn’t always easy to find the time, finding the time is key to staying close and to providing and receiving love and support. There is no greater gift than the gift of time. That’s what we all seem to be missing nowadays. So, in giving that gift consistently, everyone feels loved and appreciated.

The family that takes the time to interact regularly is typically happy. They know they are part of a tribe, and that’s essential in today’s chaotic world. To know that there are people whom you can count on—people who will have your back in times of need—is invaluable.

Now, go and plan something plan with your family, if you haven’t already.

Featured photo credit: Jimmy Dean via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Pittsburgh Parent: Spending Time Together—Benefits of Family Time
[2] Roots of Action: Integrity: How Families Teach and Live Their Values
[3] Beyond Blue: Healthy Families
[4] Esperance Anglican Community School: The importance of family time
[5] Brandy Drzymkowski: Spending Time With Loved Ones Reduces Stress
[6] Harvard Graduate School of Education: Harvard EdCast: The Benefit of Family Mealtime
[7] The Family Dinner Project: BENEFITS OF FAMILY DINNERS
[8] Parenting NI: The Importance of Spending Time Together
[9] WNY Children: Family Game Night- The Benefits of Game Play
[10] Child Therapy Boston: The Benefits of Sharing a Hobby With Your Child

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