There’ll be ups and downs on your journey through parenthood but be kind to yourself along the way.
We all have those moments of “Am I doing a good job?”, “Will my kids turn out ok?” or “I wish they didn’t see me get stressed”. One thing is for sure, you’re not alone. Every parent has concerns from time to time but the key thing to remember is: don’t be so hard on yourself. To get on the right path, here are some tips on how to be a happier parent, because happiness starts with you!
Read more: How To Reduce The Mental Load On Mamas
Before we talk about what makes a happier parent, let’s explore what makes a happier person. According to a paper presented in study.com, research indicates that there are three things that predict a person’s happiness:
- Quality of close relationships (family, friendships, romance)
- Having a job or hobby that they love and that challenges them
- Prosocial behaviour through volunteering or offering acts of service
It stands to reason that the number one predictor of human happiness revolves around close relationships. I think all mamas out there would agree there is nothing quite so close as the relationship you develop with your children. When you transition from the role of partner to parent something unique happens in your heart and mind.
With three boys, at the ages of 23, 21 and 19, this mama can attest that there are many things you can do to become a happier parent, no matter the age or stage of your child. These five tips are certainly applicable to the world of parenting, but may also help create a happier life overall.
1. Go Out On Dates With Your Partner
I put this first because your relationship with your spouse is the one that precedes your role as a parent. Create regular intervals where you go out with your partner without the kids, and try to find other subjects to discuss. It can seem hard at first, but when you set regular dates for time with your spouse, you reinforce why you fell for them in the first place. Trust me, this will serve you when it comes time to let them spread their wings and fly. You won’t just be left staring across the table at a relative stranger because you focused solely on your children.
2. Let Them Fail
It can even go with saying that letting them fall occasionally when they are small is not a bad thing. If you are there to swoop in and pick them up every time they have an accident (literal or figurative), they have no sense of what they are capable of. As this article on building better mental health reinforces: as physically healthy people bounce back from illness or injury more easily, people who are mentally strong are more capable of handling adversity, stress and trauma. This is known as resilience. “Their resilience also makes them less afraid of new experiences or an uncertain future. Even when they don’t immediately know how a problem will get resolved, they are hopeful that a solution will eventually be found,” according to the authors.
3. Be Their Parent, Not Their Friend
It is tempting to want your kids to be happy with you all the time and all your efforts end up revolving around your children. This is a lot of power for children to manage, and it does not help your parenting. It certainly won’t make you happier. As NY Times Blogger KJ Dell’Antonia points out in her book, How To Be A Happier Parent, “Happier parents don’t put their kids’ everyday needs above their own. When it comes to simple things — dinner or vacations or what to do on the weekends — they don’t make their choices solely based on what their kids want. They have their own things, and they prioritize those things.”
4. Forgive And Ask For Forgiveness
Your children will make mistakes and so will you. Being open and honest will take you a long way toward building a solid relationship. Especially when they become teens and have no tolerance for BS. Experts who study or teach forgiveness emphasize that when you forgive, you do not gloss over or deny the seriousness of an offence against you. Forgiveness does not mean forgetting, nor excusing or condoning offences. A publication from UC Berkeley explains that adults who practice forgiveness tend to be happier overall. By practising this in real-time with your children, you are reinforcing a habit that will serve them their entire lives.
5. Enjoy The Happier Moments Fully
This can be easier said than done when everything is in meltdown mode and all seems lost. Dell’Antonia says, “I call it soaking in the good.” That can mean seeing beyond your child’s bad behaviour to something unrelated: “Yeah, you have a kid on the floor having a tantrum, but [you are] able to look out the window at the horizon and go, man, nice sunset.” It can be as simple as a family dinner together or an afternoon spent playing a board game and being grateful in that moment. In positive psychology terms, this is like exercising your happiness muscle as regular gratitude is consistently associated with greater happiness. According to a piece published by Harvard, giving thanks can make you happier. “Gratitude helps people feel more positive emotions, relish good experiences, improve their health, deal with adversity, and build strong relationships.”
There seems to be no limit regarding advice that parents can call on when in need of finding their happy place in parenting. Besides the above heavy hitters, here are a few of my own pointers to get you started:
- Have a schedule/routine in place from early on and let it grow and develop with your family
- Keep a sense of humour
- Don’t make comparisons (between siblings or your family and other families)
- Be affectionate (hugs, kisses and snuggles are as good for them as they are for you)
- Your children are unique individuals with distinct personalities (celebrate that!)
- Wine helps. No, seriously!
Here’s to you and your (happier) families!