Raising kids can be a tough job. A hard job. A thankless job. But it can also be very fulfilling. My children bring me more joy than I can possibly express.
Does that mean it’s easy? No. There are days I want to yell at my oldest and cry because of my youngest, like right now, because the tiny dictator in my life — aka my toddler — is screaming as I write this.
But it isn’t all bad, and it doesn’t have to be. With a few key changes, anyone can work toward being a “happy parent.”
Here is everything we know about happy parenting.
While the term “happy parent” may seem ambiguous and vague, we can probably agree that the idea behind it is actually quite simple.
Happy parents are individuals who find joy in most days, if not every day. They know there is a silver lining to every cloud, and happy parents appreciate their role as parents.
Happy parents breathe. They stop and smell the roses. They remind themselves that their screaming toddler will one day be an assertive adult who stands up for themselves. They know that dinnertime ending in tears is just one moment in a future that features many, many happy dinners.
Of course, this notion may sound cheesy, like filler or fluff, especially if you’re not accustomed to this way of thinking. It’s also easier said than done on those challenging days when nothing seems to be going right. But shifting your perspective can have long-term health benefits.
Yes, happiness may be good for your heart in more than an abstract way. A small study of 40 women from 2011 found that those who reported feeling more positive feelings recovered from stress faster, with their blood pressure returning to normal faster.
According to a 2009 study, despite stress and challenges, parenting can improve your life satisfaction. However, this is influenced by individual factors, like your personality. Simply having kids isn’t the key to happiness.
And it’s not just your attitude — other factors, like your marital status, economic status, and governmental policies come into play when determining parental happiness.
While it would be great if we all had the support we need, on all levels, some things are beyond our ability to change. So what can you control when it comes to becoming a happier parent?
Happy parents don’t necessarily do anything particular to “be happy.” Instead, those who hope to find more happiness in parenting embrace a belief that they can find the good, even when things are difficult or they aren’t really feeling that happy themselves.
There are no guarantees for happiness, and finding parental satisfaction doesn’t mean that you’ll magically be a happy person. But it doesn’t hurt to focus on the positive.
This may not be your default setting, and that’s OK. Not everyone can easily look on the bright side. That said, there are steps you can take to improve your happiness.
Realize that things don’t have to be perfect — and that you don’t have to be perfect — for them to be good. You just have to try. You just have to be okay with good enough.
Happy parents embrace the good, the bad, and the ugly. They know that one argument, bad tantrum, or missed opportunity isn’t the end of the world.
While there are many things you can do to ensure your happiness — as a person and a parent — the happiest parents are the ones who celebrate achievements, both their own and those of their children.
Happy parents do not focus on shortcomings or failures; instead, they take pride in what has been accomplished.
Of course, being perpetually positive isn’t easy.
Here are ways you can embrace the happy in your life:
- schedule play time, for yourself and your children
- remain adaptable and flexible
- involve your children in decision making and rule setting when possible
- prioritize self-preserving activities and acts of self-care
- schedule and host weekly family check-ins, or meetings
- work on knowing when to step back and when to intervene
- say “I’m sorry” and accept others can (and will!) make mistakes
- practice gratitude
- approach challenges as learning experiences (for both you and your children!), not battles to be won
- engage in activities that strengthen yourself and your values
- let go of grudges and guilt
- live in the moment, practicing mindfulness
- plan for things to go right, but accept when they don’t
While on the hardest days being a happy parent may sound tough, it’s not impossible. Working to find a perspective that helps you to view the potential and the positive can help.
And bonus: Your elevated mood will rub off on your children, making the pursuit of happy parenting a real win-win. So practice patience. Embrace positivity and (yes) even mistakes, and choose to find the good in each day.