#raisingcapablechildren: J is for Joyful

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A recent study on Indian children found out that more than 50% were stressed. You will find similar studies across the globe showing that today’s children are a stressed lot. I personally know a few young kids who are undergoing therapy due to stress related issues. Over the last few decades stress levels in children have been spiking and we have all read about children committing suicide due to stress. The picture is grim and what can we as parents do to ensure that our kids remain joyful? On day 10 of the #blogchatterA2Z challenge, let’s talk about ways to keep our children joyful and help them learn to handle stress.

However much we may want to, we cannot shield our children from stress and situations that lead to anxiety. As they grow up and venture out into the world, life will only get more complicated. It is therefore important that we teach them to handle stress and remain joyful.

Let’s explore some ways to keep our kids joyful and happy:

  1. Create a joyful family atmosphere: when my children look back on their lives, I want their childhood memories to be happy. Needless to say they will undergo many situations as children – good, bad, stressful – but it is the happy moments that I want should stick in their memories. That on a particularly bad day, they are able to look back at their childhood and get some comfort. Try to spend time together as a family, share your day with each other, do some chores together, play together, go out, have a restful day together. It is these experiences that will live together forever in their memories.
  2. Do not add your own pressures on them: lives are more complicated today than they were a generation ago. It is true for us and is true for our children. The world they live in is very different from the one we grew up in and the best we can do is to not pile up our own pressures on them. Give them the freedom to choose their careers, enourage them to study but be careful of the weight of expectations we may be putting on them, keep an eye on what they are doing but do not bind them by too many rules and restrictions. Home should be their safe space.
  3. Enjoy the simple things: from time to time, take break from your busy lives, have a gadget free day and enjoy simple things. The sparkling green of trees after the first monsoon shower, a walk in a park or at the beach, a little picnic, birdsong, a rainbow, clear blue skies, admire the full moon. Notice these things and point out to your children and they will also make it a habit to derive pleasure from the simple things in life. Focus on the experiences rather than possesions. I know a new toy or gadget will bring immediate happiness, but it is the experiences that will stay. The time the family camped at a beach and built sandcastles will be remembered much longer than the battery operated drone. Teach them to derive their happiness from non material things.
  4. Develop hobbies: doing things one loves will always be a source of joy. These are our stress busters. It really gladdens my heart when I see my mum bring out her paint boxes in the evening and paint or to see my mum in law bring out her knitting or embroidery. Their is a lot of joy in creation. Similarly their is a lot of joy in expression – be it singing or dramatics. Hobbies stay with us throughout our lives.
  5. Teach kids gratitude: I already wrote about the importance of teaching gratitude to children a few days ago. Being grateful to our blessings helps us keep stress at bay. When you focus on what you are thankful for, it makes life feel easier and better. It is also gives you the positive impetus to get up and restart.
  6. Joyfulness is in our control: situations are external, but happiness and joyfulness are internal. It is not easy to understand or practice, but we must believe that we can take charge of our happiness. How we react or respond to situations is what would affect our levels of stress or happiness. Help children notice how they react to a person and situations and then help them work on their reactions. I remember last year my son would often complain about a boy who teased him in his school bus. I tried to explain that he should not react and if he learns to ignore the teasing, his friend would automatically stop. Help them understand their emotions and then to choose how they react. This will help build their emotional intelligence.
  7. Foster optimism: Optimism in a way relates to the point above, in the sense that it is in our control how we react to unfavourable situations. If your child faces a setback, encourage him to think that he can overcome that challenge. That this is a temporary phase and he should not take the situation personally. Discourage ‘victim’ thinking – the child could believe she is a victim of circumstances or biases and so on, but continuously encourage your child to take charge of the situation.
  8. Teach kids to identify and avoid negative people: by negative people I mean those who usually the see the glass half empty or those who are always complaining about or blaming others. I know I cannot be with someone who is too negative for very long as they tend to have a very depressing effect on me. The same would be true for any child – but they may or may not be able to identify such people and even if they do, they would probably not know how to get away from them. So first of all help them identify if there is a person who is pulling down their spirits by too much negative talk and then help them to be firm and either ask the person to not talk that way or help them move away from that person. This is definitely tricky but will help your child immensely in future as well.
  9. Build strong relationships: So many of our happy moments have been spent with close friends and relatives. Nothing can give more joy than a close friend – remember the hours spent on phone chatting or the fun in school? No summer holiday could be complete without fun with cousins. These are the bonds we forge in our childhood that stay lifelong with us and give us happiness. Encourage your children to have friends, and build strong dependable relationships.
  10. Finally just smile, hug and sing lots!: A smile can light up any situation and a song can fill you with joy! A hug can take away all blues!

I hope this made you happy and I look forward to hearing your ideas on fostering joyfulness.

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Read my other blogs on the series here:

Theme reveal

A is for Aiming High

B is for Being Brave

C is for Courage of Conviction

D is for Discipline

E is for Empathy

F is for Financial Awareness

G is for Gratitude

H is for Honesty

I is for Inclusion

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