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Six things children need for true happiness

Happiness doesn't come from the latest and greatest gadget, fancy vacations, top sports teams or dance studios. Here are six suggestions about how parents can help their children learn to be happy.
Flint Stephens, FamilyShare Modified: June 17, 2014 at 4:56 pm •  Published: June 20, 2014

Parents consciously and indirectly devote much of their time, effort and money to trying to make their children happy. When the focus is primarily on providing a big house, elaborate vacations, toys or technological gadgets, however, those efforts often miss the mark.

Regardless of age or personality, there are some key elements for helping children find happiness. These elements can generally be divided into structure or support. Structural elements are things that help children feel secure and stable. Examples include providing consistent rules and boundaries and establishing routines. Support elements provide an emotional foundation and help children feel safe.

Here are some examples:

Eat real meals at regular times

Children like schedules. They like to be able to look at a clock and know that lunch is at 12:30 and dinner is at 6. More than that, they like to share those mealtimes with a parent. There are numerous scientific research studies about the benefits of family meals including things like lower rates of drug use and lower rates of teen pregnancy. Other studies show significant health benefits for children who eat home-cooked meals on a regular basis.

Have set bed times

Katie Hurley, a child and adolescent psychotherapist and parenting expert wrote: “Kids need to learn how to sleep. It's up to us to teach them. When they are completely exhausted, they are cranky. When they are well-rested and ready to embrace the day, they are happier.” Bed times must be consistent. When parents give in to begging and allow children to stay up late, the message kids get is that they can get their way if they beg or cry with sufficient determination.

Schedule spontaneous play

Again, there are many studies touting the benefits of unstructured play on the development of young children. In an overscheduled world, it can be difficult to find time for child’s play. A study by the American Academy of Pediatrics found that children without unstructured play time experienced higher levels of stress.

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