7 ways to tell if your child is happy

Your child may or may not talk about his feelings, but here's how you can figure out if he's happy and well-adjusted in life.  

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Growing up, there will always come a time for kids where parents are uncool. As a child once upon a time, you too may have felt that towards your own parents - it's that time when goodbye kisses in front of friends or I love yous' are "ewws." Whatever the reasoning, be assured that it's a temporary phase.

Unfortunately, this phase also means that talking about feelings and problems with parents is uncool too. Your child may not tell you if he was just bullied at school or if he had a rough day. However, you can find comfort in the fact that talking about problems is just one side of the coin, as the other part comes from his behaviour. A child can't fake happiness or sadness (because as parents you just know!), so look out for these signs of a happy and well-adjusted kid. By the way, he doesn't have to tick all the boxes - we'll let you be the judge.

1.       THEY KNOW THEY HAVE A CHOICE

Things don't always go according to plan, and your child's behaviour in these circumstances indicate his outlook towards life. Dr Hana Ra Adams*, clinical psychologist says, " It’s the idea that your child knows he or she can change things." She adds, "By changing their actions or their thoughts, they themselves are able to make a situation better instead of relying on others to 'fix' the problem." An unhappy child's attitude hinges towards "why does this always happen to me?" as opposed to "what can I do with my situation." So look out for signs like self-pity and feelings of dejection, that indicate general unhappiness in life.

2.       THEY FUNCTION NORMALLY

By normally we mean your child sleeps and eats well without any major fuss or distractions. Says life coach Angela Tan**, a Certified Coach at Executive Coach International, he's generally content when he plays by himself or with our kids without throwing a tantrum over petty issues like having to share a toy. Plus your child has successfully hit his developmental milestones on time.

3.       THEY HAVE A CONNECTION WITH PEOPLE

Unhappy kids, or those struggling with their surroundings, have a fear of being judged. And because of that, they seem closed off and withdrawn. Dr Adams points out that," Children thrive on loving and positive support from parents, family, and friends." So by being able to connect with others, your child can feel that love and support which then assists him in building confidence in his identity. Hence when kids do need help, "your child will know he can turn to someone, without rejection, for guidance," she says.

4.       THEY HAVE HAPPY PARENTS

Children take cues from parents, because parents spend the most amount of time with their kids. If you're striving towards balancing work and home life, and are able to spend quality time with your child, you can be assured that your children are picking up on your efforts. All you have to do is have a sense of humor and show your child how to laugh at the little things advices Dr Adams. She adds, " Take time for breaks to show your child that taking a step back from a situation can help them see it differently." You'll be teaching him to tackle problems with a sense of humor so he won't feel overwhelmed by problems.

5.       THEY'RE ABLE TO BOUNCE BACK FROM SETBACKS

Every child knows when they make a mistake, but well-adjusted kids know how to correct them. "These children know that making a mistake is not the end of the world," says Dr Adams and ". Instead of dwelling on the past, they keep stepping forward, and continue to tackle various situations head on." While you could get away with scolding your toddler, now you need to focus on being firm instead of angry when he makes a mistake.

6.       THEY HAVE A PLAN

This doesn't mean your child knows what he's doing every second, but rather he knows the expectations put on him from school and at home. Having this kind of a structure (expectations) makes a child feel secure. "A secure child may feel more comfortable taking risks or following through with tasks instead of feeling nervousness and unable to complete a task," says Dr Adams.

7.       THEY'RE INDEPENDENT

Tan notes that happy kids usually have a sense of curiosity within them and are open to exploring this curiosity and the world around them. This makes them keen learners. You'll also realize that these kids are also the ones to take initiatives to communicate and interact with others without second-guessing themselves. "Hence a well adjusted child is someone who is freely able to express themselves and their emotions in a given situation," says Tan. She adds, this is what will contribute to a healthy and holistic emotional growth in the future.

*PsyD., MA, LMFT, licensed marriage & family therapist, doctorate in clinical psychology, and school counsellor at German European School Singapore.

** Professional Certified Coach and International Coach Federation (ICF) at Executive Coach International (www.liveyourmark.com).