Helping Children Experience Joy During Difficult Times

INA Blog Helping Children Experience Joy During Difficult Times (1)Joy is a big word. It encapsulates so much: happiness, the high points of life, and contentment, just to name a few. But sometimes finding joy can be hard – especially when difficult circumstances in life arise. For children, it is especially important to help them learn how to cultivate joy amid life’s lows. Consider these ways to help children experience true joy, even when things get tough.

#1: Teach gratitude.
Teaching a child how to be thankful goes hand-in-hand with happiness. When you can stop and reflect on things that you’re thankful for, rather than dwelling on what’s hard or difficult, it helps train your brain to change the channel on negative thoughts. Instead, it creates a shift inside that causes the child to think about what is good in life right now. One practice method is to write out a list of things to be thankful for in a journal or notebook, and then review or add to the list daily or weekly. When something difficult happens, encourage your children to look at that list and reflect one by one.

Next, encourage them to sit quietly in a calm space and take a deep breath. Have them visualize or think about things that they are grateful for. As they exhale, encourage them to try to release any sadness, stress, or anxiety they might be feeling about the difficult things happening.

Last, make sure you show your children what it means to practice gratitude. When you encounter something that makes you happy or thankful, verbalize out loud so they can hear you. While you’re eating together at the dinner or breakfast table, ask them about one thing they’re grateful for that day. When they see you modeling gratitude, they will try to model that, too.

#2: Learn how to talk through difficult times.
Whether it’s losing a friend or loved one, moving to a new city, or struggling with a friendship or a class at school, your child will experience challenges as they grow up. But if they know how to work through those feelings, they can make it through difficult times stronger – and even more joyful in the long run.

So, if they are experiencing a hard time, or your family is struggling and they are feeling the challenges associated with that, don’t ignore the emotions they’re having. Teach them that it’s healthy and necessary to express their emotions in ways that move them through the struggle, rather than stuffing them down or exploding unexpectedly. Validate their feelings, allow them to sit in that for a bit, and then find some positives to dwell on.

Once they have sat in their grief, anger, or frustration for a bit, encourage them to move on from that. Reframe the negative thinking into something constructive that doesn’t suck them down into a spiral loop of feeling hopeless or full of despair. When negative things happen or difficult times arise, help them to counterbalance that by turning their attention to the positive. If they do this long enough, it will become a default way of thinking, which helps build courage and tenacity.

Hard times will come, but they won’t last forever. Teaching your children to be mindful of that and focus on the joys that surround them will help them connect with others and the world around them, and ultimately, allow for a happier, more joyful life.

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