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April 13, 2021

Fostering happiness

By Sophie Barcant, BA (Psyc), B.ED. Trainer, Facilitator, Parenting Coach/Consultant.

Happiness cannot be bought. We must cultivate it. Children learn by our example what is important in life. The latest research on happiness tells us that once our main human needs of food, shelter, safety, and basic comforts are met, we can be happy.

Happiness is not necessarily dependent on external circumstance and things. Our own mental, emotional, and physical habits are the largest determinant of our happiness, which create the body chemistry that determines our happiness level.

Most of us have heard that sports stimulate our bodies to produce endorphins which make us feel happy. Our mental activity can also stimulate body chemistry. It’s no news that some of us have a more inborn upbeat nature than others. But much of our mood is habit.

Remember that as we raise our children, we are raising adults. Let’s set them up for happiness from young. Let’s stop the criticism, complaining and pessimism as we struggle to get over this monumental pandemic challenge.

Here are some ways we can foster happiness in our children and circles.

  1. Let’s teach them to perceive challenging experiences as opportunities to learn and grow. Including pain and suffering. Showing empathy when they suffer is essential for developing trust and connection and after a time encouraging them to look for the wisdom that can be had from the experience is where the power is.

Not allowing setbacks or challenges to keep us down is one of the best skills we can have. Allowing yourself and your children to feel whatever emotion is showing up is the emotionally intelligent way to cope. With patience, the emotion can dissolve. Resistance and supression of emotions can lead to deep anger or depression. Acknowledging our sad feelings isn’t focusing on the negative, it’s opening ourselves to the full range of being human. Accepting those uncomfortable, sad feelings actually deepens our ability to take joy in our lives.

  1. Cultivate optimism, positive self-talk, gratitude, and laughter. These can alter our mood when low. Teaching our children to notice a bad mood and working through strategies to change the mood is essential. Choosing thoughts that make us feel better is so doable. So too listening to favourite music, going outdoors for walks, playing games. Laughing at funny YouTube videos, silly comedies etc are a click away. This is so helpful for us as parents as well.

Model these regularly and talk about using them. Your children will gradually adopt this way of thinking instead of criticising and complaining about all the things that don’t work and aren’t going well.

When challenged to learn and master new tasks, openly admit to your children that you have not mastered the new task AS YET. This is having a ‘Growth Mindset’ and it helps us not get discouraged with failure or mistakes. Children so need to adopt this attitude that with practice and more effort they can master a task. Model it for them, saying, “I just haven’t figured this out YET”, or “I just haven’t practiced this enough YET.”

  1. Living the virtues of self-control, industry, fairness, caring about others, contribution, courage, leadership, and honesty all lead to living a better and happier life.

Model appreciation for the little things in your environment every day: flowering trees, finding a nice book to read, nice music to listen to, strength and talent to do your job well, the ability to give to the homeless, courage to be honest. Be thankful for eyes, ears, the ability to walk or run. Studies show that people who notice the small miracles of daily life, and allow themselves to be touched by them, are happier.

As Albert Einstein said, ”There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle, the other is as though everything is a miracle.”

Happiness does not come as a result of getting or having something but rather from recognising and appreciating what we have.

4.We are generally happier when we are physically, emotionally, and spiritually healthy so eating healthfully, being active and connected with our Maker and others is vital.

Teaching our children to work at their friendships is very important. Research shows that people are happier when well connected with others. Disharmony is stressful and depressing. As much as we must fulfil our duties  as homemakers and in our jobs, we must prioritise time for ourselves and our children to connect socially with friends and relatives, whether it’s virtually or in person.

Research is strong on showing how contributing to the lives of others makes us happy. There are many ways to contribute: having your children make sandwiches or sweetbread for those less fortunate in the neighbourhood is a simple start. A family brainstorm session can lead to ingenious ideas that may serve them for life. Your local parish or St Vincent de Paul chapter can maybe help you find a household in need to contribute to.

Some of these habits are visible—how we treat others, our bodies and how we work. Others are more mental or attitudinal habits—how we manage our mind and ourselves.

How we think can literally insulate us from unhappiness and help us be joyful. Our mindset can literally help us manage our moods, help us cultivate optimism and be resilient.

The more we exhibit these traits, the better our lives work, the better we feel about ourselves, and the more meaning we find in life. Let’s give this gift to our children as they must spend so much time at home and around us …more time to form our children’s character ourselves.


Need a little parenting coaching? Contact Sophie at or FB messenger Sophie’s Parenting Support.