How to be a happier parent

Melissa Erikson
Baystateparent Magazine

Being a parent is incredibly rewarding but also challenging, stressful and exhausting. There are plenty of ways to be a happier parent and enjoy the experience, no matter how overwhelming it may be. 

Focusing on being a happier parent is especially important during the pandemic, because a happy parent is more likely to have happy kids, said Dr. Murray Zucker, chief medical officer at Happify Health, a digital therapeutic wellness platform that includes the Happify mental health app. 

“Nobody is always happy. To be happy all the time is unreasonable,” Zucker said. 

During these hard times we should embrace happiness where we can, and that starts with ourselves. A happy parent is one who has a sense of meaning and purpose, Zucker said. He or she is goal-oriented and has a support system of family and friends. 

“They’re involved, not isolated. They’re realistic about their sense of control and have good boundaries. They know how to say no,” Zucker said. All parents want to be good at parenting, but they should also aim to be happy parents, he said. 

You’re No. 1 

“You will not feel calm, happy and resilient without paying attention to your physical self, nutrition, diet, exercise and sleep,” Zucker said. But allowing yourself some alone time is necessary to be happy, but not always possible as a parent.

This is a really challenging time as parents juggle the many issues involved with the pandemic, from virtual learning and working from home to financial stresses and insecurity over COVID-19. “Take time for yourself through meditation, mindfulness or activities that are focused just on you. Don’t give up your interests, friends and hobbies. If you start to do that it wears away at you,” Zucker said.

Connect with kids 

Remember that your children are under pressure as well. “Schedule fixed quality one-on-one time with your children. It gives them a sense of security, support and the opportunity to express themselves,” Zucker said. 

Be sure to stay informed about parenting and child-care resources so when issues like eating disorders, bed-wetting or hyperactivity pop up, you will know where to turn for help, he said.

“Look for signs of your kids not doing well and reach out for help when needed,” Zucker said. That may include scheduling a doctor visit, contacting school officials with questions or attending a support group.

Schedule a meeting 

Scheduling regular family meetings helps kids learn accountability and trains them in communication skills, problem solving and conflict resolution, Zucker said. Everyone from toddlers to teens can take part. 

Start with gratitude statements. Have an agenda and time for discussion. Rotate the leadership of the meeting between parents and children. 

“It’s OK to share with children that these are tough times, and in tough times double down,” Zucker said. “Double down on the structure in your lives. Double down on the self care. Increase communication and one-on-one time.” 

Don’t forget to work on your relationship with your partner, husband or wife. If there are problems there, kids will pick up on it, Zucker said. 

“Use introspection to take a look back at your relationship with your own parents,” Zucker said. Are there certain tendencies that you should watch out for or ways that you would like to emulate their parenting? 

If you’re still looking for ways to add happiness, try to make someone else’s life happy, Zucker said. “Giving to others makes us feel better. When you include your children you’re modeling this good behavior for them,” he said.