The Happy and Healthy Cliché
If you survey parents on what their greatest wish is for their kids, the majority will say, “I just want my kids to be happy and healthy.” This was what my mom said about me and my siblings. I remember her saying that her biggest wish was that we would be happy and healthy.
I used to think that this simple wish was sufficient. This phrase seemed so meaningful. Recently, however, I’ve been feeling let down by that wish. It’s a great start when raising kids to hope that they will be “happy and healthy.” Wanting to see kids lead a healthy and fulfilling life as adults is normal. But I feel like the phrase is slightly cliché.
You need to dig deeper as a parent or caregiver. What does it take to lead a fulfilling and healthy life? Of course, the answer will be subjective with individual values varying from person to person. But there are patterns in what evokes the feeling of satisfaction and joy within people. There is a little more social science involved in producing a satisfactory lifestyle.
What Makes Life Fulfilling?
For most people, satisfaction is achieved by a few things coming together. Outlined below are some of the main things that contribute to a person’s happiness:
- Belief in Oneself
The first is that the individual needs to perceive themselves as successful, competent, and intelligent. Notice how the person needs to think of themselves in this manner. It’s easier for most of us to recognize the potential that other people have in themselves. Seeing this potential in ourselves is not so easy.
Think of the last time you were confronted with an issue (work, personal, or family) that you successfully solved. How did that make you feel? You most likely felt a sense of pride.
Conversely, think of a time when you had an issue that you weren’t able to solve. And remember how that made you feel. Chances are that not being able to resolve the issue took a slight toll on your self-esteem.
- Maintaining Positive Connections
As social creatures, people are driven to find a way to connect with other individuals. Our friendships and relationships are what give our lives the most purpose. It’s when you feel disconnected from other people that feelings such as depression can take over. We tell ourselves the story that we’re worthless and unimportant when we feel isolated.
Additionally, our connections can help use achieve our own personal goals. People who have strong connections with those that are close to them are more likely to find success. This might be because it’s easier to accomplish things when you have a team, rather than individually.
When asked what they would change about their lives, elderly individuals commonly say they wish they’d spent more time with family and friends. They wish they’d invested in their relationships with their kids and their spouses, and they yearn for the friendships that they once had in their youth. This wisdom doesn’t have to come at an old age. It’s when we make space for our friendships that we feel a sense of positivity and fulfillment.
- Feeling in Control in Life
Most people like to feel in control of their circumstances. Whether or not we you are in control of your life, it gives most people great pleasure to feel that they have some degree of power. This isn’t to be confused with wanting to control others. Rather, people desire to feel as if they can shape their own destinies.
There are a few things specifically that contribute to feeling in control of your own circumstances. The first is being able to make reasonable choices in life. In order to obtain a sense of power over oneself, people must be able to make rational choices resulting from critical thinking; not choices made from our ever-changing emotions. When people aren’t in control of their surroundings they resort to making decisions resulting from fear, anger, sadness, etc.
A second thing that contributes to this feeling of ownership is feeling capable of completing tasks. It helps to have the ability to make corrections to mistakes that are made and learn from those decisions. A relatively accurate understanding of one’s own shortcomings and flaws helps with this.
The third thing that creates a feeling of control is an understanding of how to learn anything. In order to see projects, schooling, assignments, and other things through to the end, people must know how to learn and engage with whatever is to become their classroom.
- Feeling Respected
People need to feel respected in order to feel fulfilled. They need to feel as if their own emotional boundaries are going to be acknowledged by the other people around them. This feeling of respect leads to emotional safety. When people feel a sense of emotional safety within their environments, they naturally want to engage more with their setting; people become more motivated.
Think of the last time that your words were not taken seriously. It probably didn’t feel too good. Not only that, you may have lost some of the natural drive to work hard that you possess. Now, think of a situation when you felt as though your emotions and wishes were taken seriously, in which you felt respected and even valued. You probably felt more inclined to work harder in that area.
- A Sense of Purpose
The last major thing that creates a sense of happiness if having a sense of purpose. With purpose comes a sense of drive and dedication. Purpose makes it feel as if our lives have some deeper meaning on the planet.
It’s not uncommon for people to desire the feeling of value. We want to believe that our lives serve some purpose on this planet, and that we can help make other people’s lives better. This sense of purpose can shine through in the hobbies and careers we embark on. It strengthens our connections with the people around us and our communities.
Preparing Kids for Life
It’s impossible to prepare kids for every situation that is thrown their way. At some point, kids need to learn from their own mistakes. But there are a few things you can do to help maximize their preparedness for adulthood.
- Identify learning issues your kid has
- Too many people think that growth just happens overnight. They think that their kid’s undesired behavior is immaturity, or it will just fade away eventually. The student jumps to each sequential step without overcoming their learning obstacles, making each phase more difficult (middle school, high school, college, etc.). Don’t pass off unwanted behavior as immaturity. The first step is to identify what issues pose challenges for your kid. Learn what it is that your kid struggles with and help them learn different skills.
- Teach executive function
- Executive function is a variety of skills that help us complete tasks. These skills include self-regulation, planning, self-advocacy, organization, and time management. Executive function is the building block to success because it is what determines a student’s ability to see tasks and assignments through. People with poor executive function skills struggle with committing to various endeavors. Help your kid learn the skills of planning, time management, and organization.
- Encourage kids to learn to solve their problems
- In order to advance in any area, students must be able to learn from their own mistakes. This requires self-awareness and reflection. This can be encouraged through having conversations with kids and asking questions, not telling them how to fix a situation. As kids learn to solve problems through reflection and analyzation, they learn the fundamental skill of learning anything; problem-solving and adaptation. Learning to solve problems is one of the best preparations for life.
- Respect and acknowledge your kid’s feelings
- One of the best things that you can do for your kid is to acknowledge their feelings. This includes not only acknowledging their words, but their body language. By doing this you are letting them know that they are a valued individual and their voice and emotions are important. Kids feel more inclined to engage in school, activities, clubs, etc. when they feel comfortable and emotionally safe.
- Help kids set goals
- When kids learn to set goals for themselves, they learn how to be problem solvers in their own lives. They learn advocacy and determination. Kids become active participants in their own life when they make goals of their own. They learn to move their life in the desirable direction.
- Teach kids effective communication
- Communication is instrumental in helping us sustain relationships and learn different skills. Advocacy and problem-solving are all products of effective communication. Learning to communicate effectively is possibly one of the greatest lessons that kids could take away from their youth. Without proper communication, people can become stuck making the same mistakes or missing out on potential relationships.
Lastly, you need to be a constant learner of both your kids and strategies to help them. Learn about what your kids need as individuals. Stay open to new information that challenges what you already know about the world. And seek out information in your pursuit of helping your children grow. Your effort to learn new information will payoff with your kid leading a happy and healthy lifestyle.