First, Kelly encourages parents to help children make social connections. "Studies have shown that the more children feel connected to people, the happier they are," says Kelly. Show your child that you love them, and then encourage them to show their love to other people such as relatives or close friends. Children feel more secure when they are loved by many people.
As much as you want your child to be happy, you can't force them to be. "It's so hard to see your child angry or frustrated and you just want to swoop in and solve the problem," says Kelly. Doing so, however, may not be in your child's best interest. "When they never learn to experience and deal with those emotions, they turn into adults who fall apart at the first setback," says Kelly. Allow your child to make mistakes or to fail. While it may sting at first, it's best for them in the long run.
Keep in mind that you are responsible for your own happiness too. You can't be so concerned about your family that you let yourself be unhappy. Kelly suggests taking time for yourself - relax, rest and remember to keep a healthy, balanced romantic relationship with your partner. "Kids absorb your emotions - happy parents have happy kids," says Kelly.
Also, do your best to teach your children where happiness comes from; praise their efforts, not traits. Don't bombard your child with comments like, "Oh, you look so pretty today," or "You are so smart!" Instead, compliment their efforts by saying things like, "You tried so hard to build that block tower. I am so proud of you!" Children don't have any control over their looks or mental abilities. By commenting on something that is in their control - building a block tower - you're encouraging them to put effort into things in order to receive a positive response. In essence, you're teaching them to work hard and strive to do better, which leads to happiness.
To further encourage hard work and effort, delegate age appropriate responsibilities to your child. "Even a two year old can set the table," says Kelly. Teach your child to make their bed or be your little helper in the kitchen. Kids take pride in helping their parents, and you'll teach them new skills along the way.
Once your child has mastered a skill, he or she will encourage themselves to take risks again and try something else that's new. "It's feeling competent and able to do things that's really tied to happiness. It's not empty praise," says Kelly. Doing things well is also a huge self esteem booster.
Lastly, don't forget gratitude. "Study after study shows that people who take time to reflect on the good things they have are happier," says Kelly. Try saying grace with your child before meals or praying before bed time. Or, if you're not religious, encourage your child to openly state the good things that happened during their day and why they're thankful for them. A little reflection can go a long way to teaching your child humility, dignity and gratefulness.
For more information on raising a happy child, as well as additional parenting advice, click here to visit www.AmericanBaby.com.
By Erin Petrun