- Be a happy parent. If you ignore your own happiness, you could be teaching your child that personal happiness doesn’t matter. You cannot raise kids to value their happiness if you don’t value your own. Gretchen Rubin, author of Happier at Home, says, “If I want a household with an affectionate, encouraging and playful atmosphere, that’s the spirit I must bring with me.”
- Feel your feelings. Having a joyful life doesn’t mean being happy 100 percent of the time, says Christine Carter, author of Raising Happiness: 10 Simple Steps for More Joyful Kids and Happier Parents. She encourages kids and parents alike to lean into their feelings even if they are negative. “I’m not really one for rumination. Meaning: I make an effort to feel my feelings, often deeply, and then, if the feelings are negative, I move on,” she says. Carter encourages her kids to acknowledge negative feelings and move on quickly to learn resilience.
- Play games. Bruce Feiler, author of The Secrets of Happy Families suggests families create fun by playing games, inventing goofy traditions and singing a favorite song that make eyes roll. Every Friday night in his family everyone goes around the table and names one good and one bad thing about their day. “By watching others, including mom and dad, navigate ups and downs in real time, children develop empathy and solidarity with those around them,” Feiler says.
- Demonstrate empathy. Whether it’s charitable works, giving back or volunteering, doing good works with your kids teaches them that making other people happy can make them happy too. Being helpful to others can also lead to meaningful conversations about empathy.
- Lighten up. Research done at the Economic and Social Research Councils’ Festival of Social Science indicates that joking, laughing and pretend playtime with toddlers helps prepare them for their social life by learning creativity and having fun.
- Show self-compassion. Be kind to yourself so your kids learn self-compassion, according to Psychology Today. When you are always beating yourself up or self-critical, you are inadvertently teaching your kids that they should be able to control things that they cannot—such as the reactions of others or losing a team sport. Show your kids how to keep perspective and treat themselves kindly.
- Create a family mission statement. Write your family mission statement with your kids, incorporating their ideas and displaying it to show your strong family narrative. Or come up with your own parenting manifesto—your promises to your kids—and display it where your kids can see it, says Brene Brown, researcher and author of Daring Greatly.
- Encourage your child to keep a journal. Have your kids start a gratitude or observation journal, recording a favorite part of the day, the best memory, a new experience or discovery. You will be teaching your child gratitude and how to absorb the joy in small moments.
As you teach your kids the skills they need to be happier, you also will be teaching them about resilience, and bonus, you will become happier too.