How to Know Your Child Is Truly Happy, According to Science

mother and daughter

If there's one thing every parent wants, it's for their kids to be happy. Sure, we all worry about our children growing up to be healthy and successful, too -- but it's undeniable that we go to the greatest lengths to make our kids happy. The question is, how do we know our efforts are paying off? Especially because no kid actually acts happy all the time.

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Luckily, research shows there are some child-rearing tactics that definitely produce happier, well-adjusted kids -- and these methods also produce the type of results that are easier to spot than just abstract "happiness" (which can be pretty hard to quantify on a daily basis). And since studies show that happier kids end up becoming more accomplished adults, it's worth figuring out where your child falls on the happiness spectrum!

Here are a few scientifically based things that show your child is pretty content in life. (Spoiler alert: None of these have to do with your going bankrupt at the toy store or signing up for still more Mommy & Me classes!)

She has good friends.

Studies suggest that the ability to build relationships is a key factor in living a good life. Friendships teach kids empathy and foster kindness; they also give kids the skills they need to relate to others in school, work, and pretty much every other life situation. Does your kid have a steady playdate buddy? Does she get along with her classmates? Fostering a healthy social life now will pay off later!

He knows how to look on the bright side.

According to Christine Carter, author of Raising Happiness: 10 Simple Steps for More Joyful Kids and Happier Parents, "optimism is so closely related to happiness that the two can practically be equated." When things look bleak, does your child look for the silver lining? If not, encourage him to find new ways of looking at disappointment. Didn't make the soccer team? That means he can try out for Little League! Block tower got knocked down? Now he can build a better one!

She's grateful for the good things in life.

Research conducted at the University of California, Davis, found that people who kept weekly gratitude journals were more optimistic and "felt better about their lives as a whole." Kid can't write yet? That's okay: Just remind her how much the little things in life really mean by helping her to enjoy and be thankful for everything from feeling the sunshine on her face and the sweet taste of a fresh strawberry to being surrounded by family and friends. 

More from The Stir: 15 Secrets to Raising Happy Kids

He's comfortable expressing his emotions.

Yes, even the negative ones! Being in touch with your feelings is what experts call "emotional intelligence," and it's a pretty big part of being a happy person. After all, even the most joyful people experience ups and downs in life -- we all have to know it's okay to feel the way we do and learn how to deal with our emotions!

She has plenty of time for play.

Overscheduled kids are unhappy and stressed out for a reason: They don't get enough playtime! According to research, playfulness has been associated with brain function, increased empathy, improved academic performance, and even a reduction in nightmares. So if your kid's schedule sometimes has nothing at all on it, he's probably pretty happy with that.

 

Photo via iStock.com/BraunS

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