Your child’s health and happiness are essentially two sides of the same coin.
We sometimes feel that giving children what they want – sugary treats, screen time, toys – will make them happy. And who does not want to bring joy to their most precious little human, right? However, we tend to harm our children’s health in this process of pleasing, which ironically rather impedes their happiness. If you invest in health, happiness will flow from it. And the happier a child is, the healthier they are in turn – a beautiful upward spiral!
When it comes to a kid’s contentment, we need to start thinking long-term rather than giving in to those instant, but very fleeting, feel-good fixes. Happiness often lies in temporary displeasure, so tough out the tantrums, manage the manipulation and enjoy the more steadfast state of serenity!
Areas to focus on when you prioritise your child’s health might by now seem like that worn-out notice behind the bathroom door that you still find yourself reading each day. Yet, before we have reached perfection in parenthood (which have the same odds as owning a unicorn), we cannot be reminded enough.
Eat, drink and be merry!
Your little human simply cannot fully flourish on a faulty diet.
Nutrition works like farming: what you put into the soil (e.g. pumpkin seeds) will deliver a correlating crop (in this case – pumpkins). Likewise, if you put good stuff into your child, you will grow good stuff, but if you fill them with nonsense, you will have to put up with a produce of nonsense too.
Daily provisions of processed foods, refined grains, sugar and harmful additives are going to affect your child’s body and brain negatively. This will eventually show in his functioning, behaviour and mood. Vegetables (especially the green kind), unprocessed proteins, good fats and fruit (in proportionally less servings than the veggies) are really what your children (and you!) need to operate optimally.
Be wary of anything that is not consumed very close to its natural state. Messing with nature’s way – like most modern diets do – also messes up a person’s nature! Concentration difficulties, hyperactivity, depressed moods, anxiety and other childhood problems are often (at least partially) associated with diet.
It is just too easy to fill our little ones’ stomachs with convenience foods and to get them smiling with sweets. But what you are really doing (and this might sound harsh) is merely making your own life easier – and even then, only in the short term. You are not investing in durable happiness.
If you plan, shop and budget well, you can achieve proper nutrition on a shoestring, too – so do not make budget your excuse. You just need the correct information and, of course, the willpower.
Munchkins need to move it move it!
Our bodies were made to move and a child will not develop properly without a healthy amount of physical activity.
There are many links between movement and mood. Exercise releases a feel-good sensation. It serves as an energy-spender which consequently keeps little busy bees out of trouble and makes them feel less cooped up. At the same time, staying active actually maintains their energy levels to keep them performing vibrantly all day. Furthermore, movement improves sleep (yes – theirs and therefore yours too!). Ultimately, exercise is imperative to overall physical and cognitive health – and an ill or poorly developed child is a miserable one.
Positive activities activate positivity
A bored kid is a parent’s worst fear for good reasons. Boredom breeds blow-ups.
Children need times of appropriate stimulation. Activities like arts, crafts and structured games aid cognitive development and creativity. Remember, what might seem like mere useless fun to you is actually a child doing important business. Positive play in childhood is equal to productive labour in adulthood. Thus, just like we get depressed during times when we have nothing useful to devote ourselves to, children also need to feel well applied to stay content.
Just remember that structured activities should be age-appropriate and interjected between physical activity and free play.
What happens on the outside reflects on the inside
A discussion on health and happiness cannot be complete without looking at a child’s physical and social environment. Healthy relationships (which should include ample affection, positive discipline, the enforcement of a flexible routine and the modelling of health habits) as well as safe surroundings are absolutely invaluable to mental and physical health.
Toxins in the environment (e.g. cigarette smoke, pollution, abuse or parental discord) will poison little bodies and minds and will play out in a child’s level of contentment. Protect them from these health hazards as best as you can – even if you are one of them!
Bottom line: if you compromise on health, you compromise on happiness. Our inner child is programmed to equate chocolate milkshakes and endless episodes of our favourite cartoon with joy. But let the informed adult in you rather make the choices that will affect your child’s continuous contentment.
About the Author
Petro Wagner is a pregnant, work-from-home mommy of a two-year-old princess and a limited-edition dog. She has a Master’s degree and further training in Play Therapy, backed by an impressive knowledge of all the Heidi episodes; knowing the lyrics to endless nursery songs; and having personally met Sleeping Beauty in her real castle in Germany.