“Happiness is not something ready-made. It comes from your own actions.”
-- Dalai Lama
If this is true, how do we teach our children to be happy?
First of all, we teach them by the way we ourselves live. Often the lessons are intentional and often they are not. There is one thing that has been proven through time: Happiness is a decision. We choose to be happy or we choose to be unhappy. It is not controlled by money or circumstances.
Sometimes our children emulate us, and sometimes they vow to be different from us. Either way, they are learning from our choices. More likely than not, our children will become what we have lived before them. Here are ten things that you can do to help your child develop into a happy adult:
1. Healthy routines matter. A healthy diet, plenty of exercise, a proper rest schedule, and adequate time spent exploring nature is vital to children and adults.
2. Teach your child early in life to freely forgive others. Live this out before him. If he sees that you hold a grudge and are constantly tearing others down, it is possible that he will not discover the beauty and freedom of forgiveness.
3. Smile. Make a habit of smiling at others. Teach your children to make eye contact and greet others with a smile. So often a warm, genuine smile will bring someone, even to a stranger, out of a sad mood.
4. Teach your child how to change his thought patterns. A counselor once told a group of first graders to, “Hit the eject button on that movie of sad thoughts and just tell your brain that you are not going to watch that movie anymore.” She went on to say that, “Once you hit the eject button, put in a DVD of funny or happy thoughts and watch that movie.” I thought it was a great way for young children to see that they can control their thoughts. I often use it myself to choose happiness.
5. Show your child the beauty of serving others. Start early in her life showing her how to be of service to others. Find a way to demonstrate to her that your community has needs and how important it is to help others. Everyone is happier when they are giving of themselves and meeting the needs of others.
6. Be grateful for what you have. When you serve those who are less fortunate, it helps children and adults focus on gratitude. Gratitude is refreshing, and it always lifts your spirit.
7. Laugh at yourself. This takes a lot of practice, but it can be taught. Some children are perfectionists, so take every opportunity to model this behavior and don’t take yourself so seriously.
8. Guard your relationships and who influences your children. One bad apple can spoil the whole bunch. Make sure that you are choosing friendships that support the happiness goals for you and your child.
9. Live in the moment. Real joy involves being fully present and not worrying about the future. Trust me -- your children know when they are getting only a portion of you. Put away the distractions and live in the moment. Not only will you enjoy it more, but you will also teach your children the path to happiness.
10. Keep it simple. You don’t need all the things you think you need to be happy. Things might be fun, and there may be pleasure in certain toys and experiences … but things cannot make you happy. Happiness is a choice that comes only from within. Teach your children this at an early age.
I am confident that our children will grow into happier adults if we understand how to develop happiness in our own lives. Children learn what they live, and we owe it to them to be the best that we can be for them.