At the last soccer game of the season, another mom mentioned how happy my son was playing soccer. When his team scored, he jumped up and down. His smile was visible during most of the game, and his laughter was unmistakable. It made me happy to see that his joy was so obvious since I work hard to provide a happy, emotionally-supportive, healthy, structured environment for him. According to a new study from University College London, my happy kid has a better chance of financial success.
Researchers studied 15,000 kids and young adults, finding those who are happier overall are more likely to get a degree, find work, and earn more than their somber peers. The study shows, for example, an increase in life satisfaction at 22 could equate to almost $2,000 in higher earnings at the age of 29, even on top of other influential factors on income. Money can't buy happiness, but happiness may be the key to more money.
More than one expert was quick to point out that no one person can make another happy. "Happiness is a personal choice. That said, parents can build a child's happiness," Jennifer Little, Ph.D. of Parents Teach Kids tells Yahoo! Shine. Parents should never feel completely responsible for their child's happiness, and that's an important boundary to respect. Yet, there are simple things parents can do everyday to create a happy home environment, beyond making sure kids get enough sleep, proper nutrition, and exercise.
Listening time - "There is nothing that makes a child happier than the parent's undivided, accepting attention. This does not have to amount to hours each day, but a few minutes of the kind of attention the child needs can make up for hours of half-present time. This is what I call listening time - time that involves hearing the child, interpreting the words, and reflecting the meaning of those words. And words don't even need to be involved. Quiet time, simply being with each other, with no stress, teaching, directing - this is what children crave, and in the end is the foundation for happiness," says Bonnie Harris, M.E. Ed.
Encourage giving - Giving really is better than receiving, which is a hard lesson to start teaching kids if you wait until their teen years. Family therapist and author of "Take Out Your Nose Ring, Honey, We're Going to Grandma's" Carleton Kendrick Ed.M., LCSW explains, "We may best bring happiness to our children by encouraging and giving them opportunities to give to others. Many psychological studies have shown that adults feel most happy, joyful, and worthy when they voluntarily give to others. Now research, most recently a study conducted by psychologists at the University of British Columbia, has shown that children, some as young toddlers (asked to give away their own treats to others) are more happy to give than to receive gifts, money, treats etc."
"It behooves us to acknowledge that kids may indeed be hard-wired to be most happy when they give of themselves to others, be it their time and efforts (i.e. charitable volunteering and good deeds for others) or their money (contributing to a worthy cause)," Kendrick says.
Enrich your child's life experience - Jennifer Little, Ph.D. says, "Find activities to share with your child, expand his/her experiences in life (create a vegetable garden in the summer, go on field trips, etc.)." She recommends getting ideas for activities by talking with your child about what they think and feel and are learning in life.
Put your best face forward - You've probably heard the phrase, "Happy wife, happy life." Well, a happy mom also means a happy kid. Hannah Pilnick, author of "The Gift: The Power of Parenting," tells Yahoo! Shine, "In order for our children to be happy and healthy, we need to look in the mirror. To say it short, the best way to make our kids happy is to make sure we're happy and self-fulfilled."