I often get asked how I can be so happy (and sane) while raising five children in today’s world. The answer lies somewhere between surrendering my old ways of trying to over-manage everyone in my family and, the recognition that the onlyperson who can make me happy is… me. This awareness integrates setting an intention to lessen stress in order to make my life easier and insisting on enjoying the adventures of parenthood. I have spent the majority of my life engaged in a curiosity of family dynamics and their outcomes. I am struck by mothers who seem to be happy regardless of the state of the world around them or stage of child rearing they are in. These observations have taught me essential ideas that, when implemented regularly, make raising children easier and this mama much happier.
1. Use intuition. Regardless of what’s happening in the outside world, blasted on the daily news, shared by grandparents and other parents, using your intuition helps guide you in making the best decisions for your family. It naturally boosts confidence the more you use it and teaches your child to listen to their own inner voice. No one can navigate your individual circumstances better than you and, that results in happier outcomes.
2. Say “yes” more than you say “no.” Are you saying “yes” or “no” because it makes you feel better or is it the best choice with the circumstances at hand? Moms who take the time to pause before responding to their children’s questions or requests allow both sides the necessary space to process their thoughts in reasonable ways. This builds a mutual respect, reduces conflict and helps children grow to be more responsible, and independent thinkers.
3. Trust more, fear less. There is much instability in the world that often causes parents to use fear-based approaches in order to “protect” their children. Having faith in your child rather than the situation at hand organically arms them with confidence. Children raised in trusting environments make better decisions for themselves and have healthier experiences. Naturally, dynamics within the family are less stressed and individuals are happier.
4. Tap into each child’s individual interests. Have you ever seen a family where ALL the children play a certain sport or instrument? Is it possible that all the children prefer the same activity? Rarely. Children, especially siblings, are very different souls with unique talents. Parents who honor individuality grant them the autonomy to seek and experience their own interests. Children need space and time to explore their personal talents which organically helps them build better self-esteem and reach their individual potential.
5. Appreciate the diverse relationships they make. Even at times when an interaction feels less than desirable, at the end of the day, it’s really good for children to experience different types of relationships. The way in which other people interact with them helps shape their understanding of human connections and the world we live in. Interacting with individuals who have different ideas and approaches broadens a child’s perspective and teaches them important life lessons.
6. Just relax. Worrying wastes time and energy. Above all, it doesn’t change any outcome. Whether you’re going on a family vacation or making a trip to the emergency room, freaking out is something the whole situation (and those involved) will do better without. There are a lot of bumps and bruises throughout the parenting journey and mothers who make a concerted effort to stay cool and calm undoubtedly remain happier… and probably have less gray hair.