Happiness is a warm puppy. If you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands. Don’t worry, be happy!
The quest to make sure our kids are happy may have led us in the wrong direction. While media and tech deserve some of the blame for our collective stress, no one really knows how much. However, we do know that turning everything off doesn’t magically make us happier. In fact, studies show that some types of screen-based activities can be beneficia—and we all know the warm, fuzzy feeling we get when we enjoy media together.
Get gritty. Grit—the combination of perseverance and resilience that helps you bounce back from disappointments—plays an important role in well-being. At school, online and even with friends, kids feel pressured to achieve something on the first try. Instead, instill what’s called a “growth mindset,” the process of trying, failing and learning from mistakes. When they feel defeated, their inner voice will say, “You got this!”
Nourish their sense of self-worth. Likes, comments and other indicators of online status are part of kids’ social-media lives. But there’s a tipping point when a kid’s perfectly natural curiosity about what others think about them turns into a harmful fixation on peer validation that can cause depression. You can help inoculate your kid against this by fostering an internal sense of self-worth. Encourage activities and hobbies that give kids a sense of accomplishment on their own terms.
Be grateful. Being aware and thankful is a tried-and-true life hack that leads to a stronger sense of well-being. You can actually use media and tech to cultivate a sense of gratitude. Check out sites and apps that let kids help make the world a better place. Watch TV shows and movies that inspire gratitude. At home, create a culture of appreciation by discussing what you’re grateful for. Check out Greater Good Magazine’s Gratitude page for more ideas.
Go outside. Seriously, that’s all you need to do. Nature is scientifically proven to boost well-being. If you need inspiration, watch nature movies or download apps that encourage outdoor exploration. Or just put down your phone, close the laptop, turn off the TV and go for a walk.
Foster connection. In the digital age, kids can make new friends and strengthen existing relationships online, whether it’s in a rousing game of Fortnite, a few hearts on Instagram or even a FaceTime session with the grandparents. But the happiest people are the ones who consistently find a balance between screens and the rest of life. And as the grown-ups, we’re the ones who need to model healthy habits. So, carve out screen-free times at home. Unplug everything so you can make eye contact and really listen to family and friends without distractions. By all means, enjoy media together — but set limits so it doesn’t interfere with face-to-face interactions.
—Caroline Knorr, Common Sense Media