Most parents, I think it’s safe to say, wish for their children to have a happy childhood. Our social media feeds, and the endless images that bombard us from all angles, might lead us to believe that the things or opportunities we give our children are the keys to unlocking their happiness.
On the contrary, I believe it’s much simpler than that.
So set aside that FOMO (fear of missing out), that sense of falling short, and that urge to buy things that don’t matter. Now, consider the following list of the most fundamental building blocks for a truly happy childhood.
Love and Security
A loving home where children feel safe to be themselves—to make mistakes, to learn, to create, to ask questions, to let down their guard, and to be free—is perhaps the greatest luxury a child could hope for. A safe and secure foundation from which to live out childhood is something money cannot buy. It is truly priceless.
Routine and Discipline
Solid routines and effective discipline are truly an extension of love; they provide a sense of security and care that children need.
Morning routines, bedtime routines, bathing routines, cleaning routines, eating routines, and more, can establish positive habits and a sense of what’s to be expected (security). Generally upholding the rules of the household is a profound expression of loving care for our children.
In contrast, a family life with no rhythm or routine can feel chaotic and stressful. A child who is never disciplined gets the message that parents don’t care.
Open space on our calendars seems evermore a luxury, but it is crucial for children of all ages. Time to simply play, to run, to read, to think, to be still, and to just be is something every child needs. So much learning, understanding, and creative development happens in this space. Before you book your kids solid, remember to pencil in time to be free.
Respect and Open Communication
Children (and people in general) want to be respected for who they truly are and to be heard. Parents who really listen to their children give them a great gift.
Rather than speaking down to them or underestimating them—or worse, ignoring them in the face of outside distractions—we should try to hear what our children are telling us. Respect them as people and allow what they are capable of to come forth. Keep the lines of communication open at all times.
Regular Family Vacations
This may sound like a luxury, but it certainly doesn’t have to be. In the modern age, taking time out from the daily grind and focusing completely on time together as a family is a necessity.
A family vacation doesn’t have to be a luxurious or expensive affair. It certainly could be that, but it can also be a simple weekend away or an even more simple “staycation” when work, school, and other outside obligations are set aside in the name of complete focus on family time.
Regardless of cost, these will be the memories our children carry with them for all of their lives. These will also be the experiences that underpin a healthy family reset, a centering and strengthening of the bonds we share.
A Quality Education
Our fundamental duties as parents are to love and teach our children. Know what your children are learning in school and (perhaps more importantly) what they’re not, and supplement when necessary.
Look for learning opportunities in everyday life. Read books, watch documentaries, visit museums, experience theater, and have adventures. We are our children’s greatest teachers.
A Focus on Character
Of course, the most important lessons to teach our children are the moral principles we wish to impart. Whether through a religious or spiritual practice, a philosophy, or simply our own behavior, we must teach our children how to be good people.
While there will always be circumstances in life we can’t control, if we aim for the simple elements, rather than reaching for frivolous or material things, we stand a good chance of giving our kids a happy childhood.