5 Ways to Unlocking Your Child’s Happiness
Just a few generations ago, happiness meant having a roof over our heads, a loving family, and chicken drumsticks for everyone. Simpler times! With increasing affluence and overall higher socio-economic status, what constitutes happiness has evolved quite a bit. When it came to our generation, our parents defined happiness for us as getting good grades and a university degree, a well-paying and well-regarded job, and starting a family of our own.
As 21st-century parents, we’ve set the bar even higher. Sure, we still want our kids to excel in school. But we also want them to be happy in life, by widening their horizons, and being free to engage in whatever gives them joy – be it the arts, sports, gaming, or even vlogging.
To support our kids in their pursuit of happiness, we give them access to every opportunity – yoga classes, violin lessons, coding camps, you name it. We plan family vacations that include exciting theme parks and culturally rich experiences. But beyond enabling your child to pursue their happiness today, what else can you do to help protect their future happiness?
1. Allow Your Child to Fail
It’s natural to want our kids to excel in everything they do. We want to give them the “atta boys” as much as they want to receive the praise. It goes against every parental instinct to stand aside and not cushion our little ones from making mistakes. And that’s where many parents get it wrong. Because real life is not all roses and soft cushions, and eventually they will encounter failure. The question is, can they get back up, brush away the dirt, and keep trying until they succeed? Or will they let the setback tear them down and hold them back?
The answer, very often, depends on whether they were allowed to experience and learn from their failures as a child. Resilience is a trait that successful people have in common, and the only way to develop resilience is to be allowed to try, fail, and push through failure. Besides, with each experience, your child will develop more emotional muscle to be able to overcome tougher challenges in life, with the understanding that happiness can still follow failure. As the Chinese idiom goes, 先苦后甜 (literally “first bitter, then sweet”).
So throw out the metaphorical bubble wrap and allow your child to take age-appropriate risks, even those destined to result in failure. After all, you’ll be there to help remind them that they can try again when the bruises have healed.
2. Don’t Over-Prioritise Happiness
It sounds counterproductive, especially when we’re talking about how to ensure our children’s happiness. But happiness isn’t the only emotion of value. Every feeling on the emotional spectrum is just as important. How many times have you shushed your little one when they screamed in frustration or cried in despair? Have they had to force a watery smile just because you told them to?
It’s tempting to try to distract kids from their unhappiness, especially when they’re younger. Your toddler is fussing because Mummy is working late, so Dad hands out an ice cream, or does a silly dance, just to elicit that dimpled smile. Which works – for now – but not addressing the underlying cause of his unhappiness (separation anxiety?) can lead to more issues in the future. Children need to process their emotions just like adults do, and when you’re little, those feelings can feel very big. Sometimes even too much joy can overwhelm their sensitive souls!
Give them space, and time, to mull over what’s bothering them. Rather than (however unintentionally) belittling their feelings – “Don’t be silly, what’s there to cry about?”, validate them – “I know you’re upset, can you tell me why?” and help them talk through what’s bothering them. Knowing how to manage their emotions – positive and negative – is a crucial life skill that contributes to protecting their happiness in the long term.
3. Let Them Figure It Out
Another essential life skill is the ability to problem-solve. And to quote every Maths teacher ever: practise, practise, practise! This gives children the chance to develop their own strategies, and cultivate innovation and resourcefulness – more keys to unlocking success. Learning through experience on how to deal with setbacks from a young age gives them an edge when facing obstacles in the future. It can also help teach them how to anticipate and therefore sidestep avoidable problems before they occur.
Furthermore, while engaging in problem-solving, they will also discover that their efforts directly relate to their success. This will not only build confidence and empower them to tackle other problems that come along, but also motivate them to work hard to achieve their goals. The process will also result in more satisfaction and happiness than if they had been given a ‘cheat sheet’.
In other words, avoid jumping in with helpful solutions right away, however tempting it may be. Whether it’s a jigsaw puzzle or a playground dispute, let your child attempt to solve their own problems. Of course, they should also be made aware that if a problem is too big or might be dangerous for them to handle – that they can always come to you for help and advice. But sometimes, all they really need is a listening ear!
4. Expand Their World View
Kids in Singapore, for the most part, have all their basic needs amply fulfilled. They’ve never experienced real hunger, lived in squalor, or had to walk to school barefoot. It’s pretty easy to raise sheltered and pampered children who measure their happiness by the level of material comforts they have.
Teach your kids about contentment by showing — not telling — them just how blessed they are. Saying things like “Don’t waste food, other children are starving,” does little to make them eat their veggies when they have no point of comparison. After all, they were ‘starving’ yesterday until you took them for burgers! Instead, show them what reality looks like for the less fortunate.
For starters, read, watch, and discuss with them less-than-pleasant issues ranging from poverty and climate change to racism and war. Volunteer as a family with local charitable organisations – yes, there are needy Singaporeans too! And for your next family vacation, instead of glamorous cities like Sydney and Tokyo, consider places like Yangon or Sihanoukville. If you can help your children to realise just how privileged they are, they’ll be able to find happiness even when life presents them with lemons.
5. Protect Their Way of Life
Even while you adjust your parenting methods and look forward to watching your child develop into a resilient, resourceful, empowered, content, and of course, happy individual, there’s just one more thing to do. And that’s to ensure that the lifestyle you’ve given your child to enable their pursuit of happiness can be maintained, no matter what.
Routines they can depend on and stability in everyday life are factors that contribute to a child’s happiness, along with little luxuries, like the latest LEGO set or outings to their favourite theme park. But life isn’t always predictable. What if you were suddenly struck with a critical illness? Or if your spouse died in a traffic accident? Your child’s fragile world could crumble overnight.
Protect yourself and your family’s financial standing with a life insurance plan. Should something untoward happen to you, it will help ensure that your child’s life as they know it wouldn’t have to change as drastically as it might otherwise. Your child deserves to have their future happiness protected.
No two families are the same, but every parent ultimately just wants their children to be happy. Take these five steps to help unlock your child’s happiness. Learn more about how to protect your child’s happiness, and the life insurance plans that can help bolster that quest. Don’t leave your child’s happiness to chance.