How to Raise Happy Kids: 7 Essential Strategies

Boy holding large paper sun
Photograph by Priscilla Gragg
What would bring true happiness to your household? A winning lottery ticket? A vacation home on a faraway beach? A new minivan free of pretzel crumbs? In fact, a growing body of research suggests that lasting family happiness isn't about momentous events or acquiring more things. It's about learning to savor life's small pleasures ... together.
Practicing some simple habits can boost happiness levels in your home; Photograph by Priscilla Gragg
Practicing some simple habits can boost happiness levels in your home; Photograph by Priscilla Gragg

The Happy Family Playbook

We often speak of "finding" happiness -- as if it's something we stumble upon, a lucky penny on the sidewalk of life. Actually, it's an emotion over which we have a fair amount of control. Science is confirming what Dorothy had to go to Oz to discover: Happiness is not somewhere over the rainbow. It's right in your own backyard.

In the slides that follow, our experts share the latest research into the mystery of positive vibes, plus easy ways of putting these findings into action every day, from laughing more to plugging in less. The great news is that introducing your kids to happiness habits is a package deal. "It's buy one, get one free. You can't teach these habits without getting happier yourself," says Christine Carter, PhD, author of Raising Happiness: 10 Simple Steps for More Joyful Kids and Happier Parents and a senior fellow at UC Berkeley's Greater Good Science Center. When you all work on it together, "positive emotions are amplified, and the benefits are stronger."

In the process, you'll build strong bonds, which adds to the bliss: "Having close family relationships is a key predictor of overall happiness," says Jeffrey Froh, PsyD, a Hofstra University psychology professor and coauthor of Making Grateful Kids: The Science of Building Character.

At first, you may have to take the lead. But then watch some magic happen. "Kids want to do these things, not because they are Pollyannas, but because it feels so good to them," contends Carter. So are you ready to get happy? Read on for seven proven strategies (and many more tips and activities) for raising upbeat kids and increasing family joy.

Originally published in the May 2015 issue of FamilyFun magazine.

Photograph by Priscilla Gragg
Photograph by Priscilla Gragg

Commit Acts of Kindness

Doing a good deed is a win-win. It helps others and adds to the deed-doer's happiness.

Originally published in the May 2015 issue of FamilyFun magazine.

Photograph by Priscilla Gragg
Photograph by Priscilla Gragg

LOL -- A Lot

Get serious about getting goofy. Laughing can bring families closer together.

Originally published in the May 2015 issue of FamilyFun magazine.

Photograph by Priscilla Gragg
Photograph by Priscilla Gragg

Jump for Joy

An instant happiness lift could be just a hop, skip, and a jump away.

Originally published in the May 2015 issue of FamilyFun magazine.

Photograph by Priscilla Gragg
Photograph by Priscilla Gragg

Unplug for a While

To lighten the mood, pull the plug and connect with your kids.

Originally published in the May 2015 issue of FamilyFun magazine.

Photograph by Priscilla Gragg
Photograph by Priscilla Gragg

Get Into Gratitude

The nicest thing you can give your kids is a deep appreciation for what they already have.

Originally published in the May 2015 issue of FamilyFun magazine.

Photograph by Priscilla Gragg
Photograph by Priscilla Gragg

Go Play Outside

Getting active outdoors has proven payoffs for body and mind.

Originally published in the May 2015 issue of FamilyFun magazine.

Photograph by Priscilla Gragg
Photograph by Priscilla Gragg

Celebrate Sunny Thinking

With some basic tactics, you can help kids develop an optimistic worldview.

Originally published in the May 2015 issue of FamilyFun magazine.

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