Childrens' Health Enhanced by More than Fruit and Vegetables
By Yvette Vignando - 11th October 2010
In an article published in the Journal of Happiness Studies, it was concluded that happiness prolongs the life of healthy people and may even protect against us falling ill. Scientists have known for some time that stress can have a negative effect on our immune systems.
Probably I am slightly more paranoid that the average parent but I often think about my kids’ health throughout the day – have they brushed their teeth, did they have enough vegetables at dinner, why aren’t they eating lunch at school, did they do enough physical exercise this week? And so it goes on, until I start thinking about my own health too. And although I do obviously try to keep our kids reasonably happy, I rarely think about this as being good for their physical health.
I should point out here that, as far as I know, happiness can not cure ill health. For those parents who have the heartbreaking work of parenting and wishing their children back to good health, it would be condescending to suggest that they just need a dose of happiness to speed them on their way. My heart goes out to parents of sick children.
Yet, maybe as parents we should factor in happiness when thinking about our childrens’ longer term health and about prevention of illness. As the author of the Happiness Studies article points out, the evidence demonstrates that happiness in many cases, contributes to people leading longer and healthier lives. Some of the reasons suggested for this (apart from boosting our immune system) include that when we are happier we take more care of our health, and we are more active and more inclined to think carefully about life decisions that impact on our health.
So, how do we translate this to our kids and our role as parents? Here are my ideas on this, as a self-confessed overthinker:
- we can teach our kids how to choose paths in life that feel right for them, rather than encouraging them to live our own dreams (e.g. as a sports hero) (see post by Arun Abey on this topic)
- we can teach our children the skill of optimism. A great book about this is The Optimistic Child
- we can engineer opportunities for our kids to experience the feeling of success
- as our kids develop, we can teach them how to choose and identify their own set of values and make choices in life based on those values
- we can take care of our own emotional health and model living our own ‘good’ lives for our children.
- we can teach our kids life skills that have the effect of ‘immunising’ them against depression. If this is a topic that interests you, take a look at the articles by Julia Richardson called: 6 Tips to Help an Unhappy Child and Protecting Your Children Against Depression
You'll have your own views on this topic. We all have kids with different temperaments and the same recipe does not work for all of them. In our family we have three very different boys - I love the differences and this diversity stopped me from becoming a smug parent who thought she had it all sorted after the first child! Wishing you a healthy and happy week.