How do you keep the joy and love flowing, even when you're tired? Here are the secrets to being a happy parent.
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Beautiful african american mother giving daughter piggyback ride smiling happy at the park.
Credit: Getty Images

While parenting is an amazing experience, it is also quite hard. From temper tantrums to sleepless nights, parenthood is a challenge. But did you ever wonder about the parents who (seemingly) rise to the occasion without effort? Who are happy and poised and put-together, through and through? Well, it turns out many of them implement certain strategies—or secrets—to keep them sane.

So what are they? What do happy parents do? Here are 17 habits of healthy parents.

1. Ask for Help

Happy parents know it takes a village. They ask others for advice. They lean on their friends for support, and happy parents ask for help.

2. Leave the House

Have you been outside today? Fresh air, sunlight, and nature are believed to be critical mood enhancers. So go for a walk with your wee-one, or—if you can—alone. Leaving the house will benefit both your body and mind.

3. Plan Some Big Fun

Whether you stay-at-home or work in an office, one thing is true: You need a break. But while a grand vacation may not be in the cards, at least not yet, you can still inject some fun in those boring must-do tasks, like grocery shopping, by bringing home a fun treat for your family. (We like Friendly's Sundae Cups.) You can also plan day outings or trips to local spots, like the zoo, a campground, or the movies.

4. Get Your Groove On

Did you know intimacy is linked to happiness? It's true. A 2020 study found happiness and sex are tied together. So if you find sex fulfilling, be sure to make time for it.

5. Eat, Sleep, and Be Merry

Being sleep-deprived may be a badge of honor for those with young babies, but the sooner you can figure out how to get your eight hours back, the more delirious with joy you will be.

6. Workout

We're not talking about beer here. Rather, exercise can be the key to happiness. Just 30 minutes a day can boost your metabolism and, more importantly, your mood.

7. Indulge In Some Self-Care

Carving out time away from the kids is crucial, whether it's poker night or just a long bath with a magazine.

8. Plan Playdates with Fellow Parents

It's important for parents to hang with other parents. Why? Well, because knowing that others are in the trenches with you is key. It's also good to get-together with likeminded adults, as regular social engagements can stave of feelings of sadness, restlessness, loneliness, and hopelessness.

9. Plan a Little Fun

Did you know happy parents buy themselves flowers sometimes, just in case no one else has thought of it? It's true. They also meet their partners for lunch, get a facial, or have the car detailed just because it's the little things that count.

10. Play With the Rules

One of the best things about being the person who makes the rules is bending them. With each of my kids, I allow certain treats that have a slightly wicked feel. With my 4-year-old daughter, it's taking a bubble bath with our miniature dachshund. With my teenage son, it's stopping for really expensive sushi on the way home from a doctor's appointment. Very happy parents know when to turn the mundane into magic.

11. Pick and Choose

Separate the siblings and enjoy some one-on-one time with each kid. No interrupting, no juggling, no sibling rivalry. What joy!

12. Look Ahead

When your happy buzz threatens to slip away altogether, remind yourself that "This too shall pass." It works both ways: Either you get through the terrible stuff by knowing it's not forever, or you put it into perspective.

13. Forgive and Forget

We all want to live up to our parenting ideals and do everything right all the time, and here we are, losing our tempers, being inconsistent, and bribing kids with candy on a daily basis. Unfortunately, all the time you spend brooding and punishing yourself for this is more time when your best self is not there for your kids. Happy parents let those days go, and get on with exercising and vacation planning.

14. Cuddle Up

While it may seem obvious, snuggling your kiddo can make both of you and your babe-un happier. Cuddling improves sleep and lowers anxiety and stress. It increases the bond between you, and the act can actually make your child smarter—a win-win.

Parents Magazine