Happiness for parents comes in a variety of different ways.
A research paper from the Psychological Bulletin found that parents tend to be more stressed out and unhappy in modern America because of financial woes, lack of sleep and even general marriage troubles. This was something that researchers from the University of Michigan also found.
But research from the Psychological Bulletin revealed that there are multiple ways parents can find happiness despite dark storms around them. No matter how troubling times may be, happiness is possible for parents, both young and old.
“[W]hen parents experience greater meaning in life, satisfaction of their basic needs, greater positive emotions and enhanced social roles, they are met with happiness and joy,” the study said.
So how do you know if you’re a happy parent? Well, you’ll know if …
… you’re the right age
A parent’s age has a lot to do with how happy they feel, according to the University of California Berkeley. Parents ages 25 or younger seem to find more stress while raising kids, while the older parents find time to settle down to take care of their kids.
“[O]lder parents report feeling more mature, competent and less stressed than younger parents, while younger parents report more feelings of restlessness, isolation, and stress about finances,” wrote Emily Nauman for Berkeley.
… you have family dinner
Research has found that having family dinner can give children a boost in life. The Family Dinner Project found that kids who have family dinner tend to have a healthier lifestyle and are better adjusted for the world.
But the dinner also benefits parents, according to Katie Kelly Bell from Forbes. Having family dinner allows kids and parents to create everlasting memories that’ll serve to inspire in the future, Bell wrote.
“We build gratitude, relationships, memories, and a history together — each night — around our beat-up, notched-from-school-projects, weathered and worn, wonderful old table,” Bell wrote.
… you have family game night
Three studies all found that parents have a major influence on the academic success of their children, which in turn, makes the parents happy, according to Education Week. According to Education Week, a parent's happiness increases when they see their own child succeed. Family game night can help with that. Jessica Lahey of The Atlantic explained that family game night improves executive function skills and builds self-confidence for the kids.
… you take a break from work
The Modern Family Index, a research study commissioned by Bright Horizons Family Solutions, found that work is making parents more stressed. That's because many Americans fear they’ll lose their job and hurt the family’s finances.
Family members are also not known for taking vacations either, the study found, since mothers and fathers will use their time for family responsibilities. But there are plenty of benefits to taking a vacation, so it may be time for parents to take some time off.
… you choose to be happy
For some parents, choosing to be happy can be the right course of action. Stephanie Meade wrote for The Huffington Post that she was nervous upon first stepping into the parenting world, given that many people told her how cold and unforgiving it was. But once she decided to be a happy person and raise her kids through happy means, her entire perspective changed.
“We have more control over happiness than we think and don't have to be like a buoy to life's whims — we can choose to be an anchor that doesn't get knocked around every time things get tough,” Meade wrote.
… you’re realistic
One of the problems for parents is that they continue to think that having kids will instantly make them happier. But Daniel Gilbert, professor of psychology at Harvard University, told parents.com that parents need to remember that having kids is less about making us happy and more about finding meaning in life.
“We don't have children because we expect them to make us happy all the time," Gilbert said to parents.com. "We have them because they give our lives meaning."
… you finish your to-do list
Psychology expert Christine Carter’s latest happiness tip for parents is to make a plan and follow through with it. Too often our plans are left unfinished, which makes us feel incomplete, Carter wrote. Striking out that last thing on the to-do list will give parents a sense of accomplishment and make them all the happier.
“Before you leave work or hit the hay this evening, take a look at your task list and make a plan for completing unfinished tasks,” Carter wrote. “Knowing what the next step is for undone items, and when you will do them, can make you a whole lot happier.”
… you see your baby smile
No joke about this one. A study by Dr. Lane Strathearn of Pediatrics at Baylor College of Medicine found that when parents see their children smile, they also tend to get happy. It doesn’t even need to be your own child, though. It could actually be anyone's kid.
“When mothers see their own baby’s face, ‘reward’ centers of the brain are activated,” Strathearn said. “It’s like a ‘natural high’ that I believe stimulates responsive care-giving behavior and strengthens the mother-infant bond.”
… you help your kids lose weight
One of the biggest worries for parents is that their kids are going to be obese, a poll by the University of Michigan found. So one way to relieve that stress is for the kids to lose weight, which is something that families can do together. Researchers recently found that families who try to lose weight together tend to have better results in lowering numbers on the scale.
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