By Kenneth N. Condrell, Ph.D.
The NFDA Work/Life Resource Program (EAP), a benefit of your membership, offers may free resources to help you raise happy, healthy children.
A child’s life consists of three major components: family, school and friends. Children feel happy when life goes well for them within these three arenas.
It is next to impossible for children to find happiness if their family life is poor and characterized by deprivation, neglect and conflict. Within their own family, children feel happy when:
- They feel connected to and loved by their parents. Hugs, kisses, being held and snuggling makes children feel loved. When children feel special, valued, wanted and important in their family, they feel happy.
- Their parents teach them to do things they couldn’t do before. Children love to feel grown up and they love the praise and recognition they receive from others for being capable and competent.
- Their feelings are not hurt unnecessarily by the words their parents choose to correct them. Instead of hearing, “you are a slob,” they hear, “your room is a mess and needs to be cleaned.” Instead of hearing, “you are lazy,” they hear, “you haven’t done your chores yet.” Parents are teachers, and good teachers teach children without sarcasm, insults, name-calling and words that make a child think and feel he is no good.
- Their family plays together and makes time for fun. Sledding, bowling, family movie night, games, flying kites, picnics, bike rides, swimming and camping are just a few activities children love to do with their family.
- They enjoy close relationships with relatives in the family such as grandparents, uncles, aunts, cousins and godparents.
- Their parents inspire and encourage them to take risks and to try new things. Children feel happy when they sense their parents have confidence in their ability to meet new challenges.
- They see their parents happy and showing affection toward each other
Children constantly go back and forth between family and school, so for a child to be happy, school must be a positive experience. Children feel happy when:
- They are liked by other children and have friends.
- They are learning, passing tests and getting good grades, and their projects are displayed in school.
- Their parents take an interest in school, visit their classroom, know their teacher and come to school events.
- They have learned self-discipline at home to succeed with their studies at school. Self-disciplined children can make themselves work when they don’t feel like working, and follow rules when they don’t feel like following rules. This leads to being successful in school.
- They feel accepted by their teachers, and their teachers are proud of their efforts to achieve.
A child without friends leads a lonely and painful life. The world of friends is very important to children. Children feel happy when:
- The good manners and social skills they have learned at home make it possible for them to be desired as friends by other children.
- They can have friends play at their home and can sleep over at friends’ homes.
- They have a best friend. Friends are important, but best friends make children very happy.
The following are some things that make children unhappy:
- A depressed mom who is grumpy and no fun to be with.
- A dad who ignores his child’s emotional need to be loved, and only relates to his child through criticism.
- Lots of quarreling between parents.
- No time for family fun.
- Few hugs, kisses and expressions of love.
- Being corrected with insults and abusive words.
- Failing in school and feeling there is no way of getting help.
- Being rejected, bullied or tormented by children.
- Living with angry parents who are irritable, short-tempered and impatient.
- Living with a stepparent who is unloving or abusive.
- Living with a single parent who openly hates the other parent.
When children suffer at home, at school, and with friends, they often become depressed. Once a child is depressed, he becomes convinced that he is no good, that no one loves him and that life is awful. When these children are young, they either withdraw or develop behavior problems. When they become teenagers, these children often rely on drugs and alcohol to wash away their unhappiness.
This is why it is important for parents to monitor their children’s lives. A parent can do this by simply asking themselves each month: “How are things going for my child within the family, at school and with friends?” If necessary, a parent can then take corrective action.
If you have questions or need support, the NFDA Work/Life Resource Program offers free, confidential assistance by phone and online. For more information about the wide range of tools and resources available to you, visit www.nfda.org/worklife (log in required).
Kenneth N. Condrell, PhD, is a child psychologist and family therapist who has been in private practice for more than 40 years. He is an assistant clinical professor in the department of psychiatry, School of Medicine, State University of New York, and has authored three parenting books. Dr. Condrell is the father of three grown children.
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