These simple tips will help any child feel happier. But they are especially useful for a child who often feels sad or is experiencing other kinds of difficulties. You might not be able to do them all at once. Pick two or three and make them habitual. Then try adding more.
1. Make a list of your child’s best qualities. Is he helpful, generous, creative, a good brother to his siblings? Does she excel in art, music, reading or computer skills? After you’ve made the list (writing it down helps), tell your child one or two good things about himself every day, without being too obvious about it of course. Just sprinkle them casually into conversation.
2. Invite your child to play a board game or do a puzzle. In these days of the “electronic hearth”, reading aloud, playing board games and doing jigsaw puzzles around a real hearth have all but disappeared from our children’s lives. Your child would love to play checkers, cards, Monopoly, Stratego, or another board game with you. If time is limited, play a short game or keep an ongoing game or puzzle on a table in the family room.
3. Post your child’s latest drawing or painting on the refrigerator, or frame it and put it on the wall or mantel.
4. Praise your child for something she has done exceptionally well. Or better yet, post a “certificate of praise” on the refrigerator. You can have fun on your computer generating a customized “certificate of praise” for your child. Excellence in academics is important of course; but so often we parents focus exclusively on our children’s doing well at school and we forget about other qualities that we want to foster in them: like being caring and generous to others, being a loyal friend, feeling compassion for the less fortunate, and loving the world of nature. Don’t forget that social intelligence (the art of making and keeping friends) is at least as important as “book learning.” Be sure your praise is targeted and realistic, or your child won’t believe that she deserves the compliment.
5. Invite your child to help you bake cookies or prepare a meal. Even though it might mean more work for mom to have her child “help” in the kitchen, it’s worth the boost to your child’s self esteem.
6. Nurture your relationship with your spouse or partner. Take time to go out on a date at least once a month. Date nights are important so that you enjoy life together with your spouse. But dates are equally important because they give you time to get things off your chest and resolve disagreements before small things build up and become a wall. And it’s critically important to work out wrinkles in your relationship outside of the hearing of your child. There is nothing as important to your child’s sense of well-being as knowing his parents are happy together.
7. Model happiness for your child. This is the most important tip of all. Every morning, tell your child one thing you are looking forward to in your day. Tell him that you are planning to take a walk at lunch time or start reading a book you’ve had on your list or that you are going out to lunch with a co-worker. In the evening, mention one thing that you enjoyed about your day.
Don’t forget: this is about you and your own happiness. Say something like: “I had a good day today. I enjoyed working in the garden, I went to an art class, or I had a great time jogging with the dog.” Of course you will have to plan enjoyable activities for yourself, so that you are telling your child the truth.
If you honestly do all of these things for three weeks (starting out slowly and then adding more), you will be amazed at the results in your child.