The Best-Kept Secret for Raising Happy Children

heartThere are few absolutes in parenting, but here's one most of us can agree on: We want our children to be happy and well-adjusted. We place value on this above many other things, because we know that if that's their foundation, they will be better able to face the challenges of life.

But how to ensure their emotional well being? Some believe academic success is the key, and embrace flash cards, videos, and a Tiger Mom approach. Others believe sports and activities will be the key, while some take a more hands off approach. But as we scramble to embrace the best and latest methods to make our kids happy, we may be overlooking the single most important thing we can do to boost their brainpower. Fortunately, many of us are doing it anyway.

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It's very simple, and The Beatles sang it best: "All you need is love."

That's right, love.

In an article for CNN, Dr. Charles Raison offers scientific evidence that a child's brain is literally changed by the nurturing of his or her parents. So from emotional well being to their long-term memory, what we're doing by just loving and nurturing them each and every day is helping them.

He cites a study that involved children between the ages of 3-6. Researchers observed them with their parents and watched them interact while doing a stressful task. A few years later, they remeasured the size of the children's brains and found that those of children with "especially nurturing, caring mothers" showed significantly more physical growth of the brain -- particularly in the hippocampus -- than those with mothers deemed average or poor nurturers.

How amazing is that? And this is a wildly important part of the brain we're talking about as it regulates everything from depression to memory and the ability to handle stress. It's particularly key when it comes to mental illness.

So while it certainly ups the pressure to be a good parent, it's also a refreshingly simple technique that we all can embrace to give our kids the best possible shot in life. Okay, on some days -- like yesterday when my toddler pushed every button I had, including some I didn't know existed -- it's a little more challenging, but love I can do

That doesn't mean, of course, that every child who suffers from depression or emotional problems has unloving parents by any means -- there are plenty of other factors at play to be sure. But it does show us how important our interactions with our children how vital love is.

Does this study surprise you?


Image via Lel4nd/Flickr

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