Health & Fitness

Want happy, healthy kids? Spend more time with them, less money on them

Encouraging family activities fosters closeness with your children.
Encouraging family activities fosters closeness with your children. AP

How do you raise a happy kid? Sound like a million-dollar question? It’s not. In fact, raising happy children boils down to a few things: love, comfort and emotional and physical habits.

Here are some ways to guide your child to a joyful life:

Focus on the positives. By adopting the “glass half full” scenario you’re encouraging kids to look at situations in a different way.

Foster connections. Kids who feel a connection not only to you but to other family members, friends, neighbors, and even pets, are better protected against emotional distress.

Encourage play time, not screen time. Simple pleasures like climbing trees, digging in the dirt or just sitting on the front porch doing homework can help boost your child’s mood. Ensure they’re learning the art of conversation and the importance of downtime.

Practice gratitude. Discuss (regularly!) the things you feel grateful for or nice things someone did — or you did for them.

Eat meals together. Family mealtime — whether it’s breakfast, lunch or dinner — is one of the best things you can do to raise happy kids. Children who regularly eat with their parents are less likely to be overweight or have eating disorders. And teens are less likely to experience behavior problems or substance abuse.

Don’t spoil your kids. Those who’ve been handed everything tend to grow up materialistic with high expectations. Instead, help them learn the art of appreciation by making them earn privileges. Similarly, focus on experiences rather than things. Creating memories as opposed to collecting more “stuff” is where true happiness lies.

Help others. When kids feel they’re making a difference — whether it’s picking up trash at a local park or taking cookies to a nursing home — they feel more confident.

Love them. Hello to hugs and a listening ear. Kids just want to know they’re understood, wanted, acknowledged and loved.

If you need support or would like to connect with other parents for more ways to raise happy kids, come to a Parent Club workshop sponsored by The Children’s Trust. Find out more at

Rachel Spector, MSW, has over 25 years’ experience in the field of early childhood development and early learning; she currently oversees the Thrive by 5 early learning quality improvement system at The Children’s Trust.