Parenting is no piece of cake, and it can actually take a toll on your physical well-being and brain health if you do not approach it positively. Parenting needs to be a joyful experience that enables you to create memories with the whole family. In other words, you want it to be a fun and an uplifting journey.
But how can you tear yourself away from the constant hustle and bustle of managing the household and trying to make ends meet? Parents tend to lose their happy self in the process and often go to bed in an exhausted state of mind. But according to a research, if you keep your brain happy, you can lead a satisfied and content life. Why? Because happiness stimulates your brain in unexpected ways, so much so that the brain responds to pleasure in a way that reinforces even more pleasure. Additionally, a happy brain can improve your ability to perceive, increase your memory and helps to create new neural connections- making you cognitively alert and even more productive. On the other hand, a negative mood can disturb the way you interact with your environment and kills neural pathways, causing your brain to work slower.
This is why, it is important to keep a positive outlook and focus on joyful parenting methods if you want to keep depression and anxiety at bay. Focusing on negative thoughts will sap away your brain’s positive energy and can hinder its performance by causing it to slow down. On the flip side, staying happy and optimistic can decrease cortisol levels and produce serotonin, which will create a sense of peace and well-being within your whole body. Happy thoughts promote brain growth and help create new synapses, especially in your prefrontal cortex (PFC), which is responsible for all the major brain-mind functions.
Joyful parenting can bring a wonderful change in your personality and help your brain function at its peak capacity. But family fun doesn’t just happen on its own. According to Nick Stinnett, Ph.D., professor of human development and family studies at the University of Alabama, “Happy families follow principles that increase the joy in their relationships.” In other words, they try to be consistent in following habits that bring them joy and happiness.
Here are 6 effective joyful parenting strategies that will not only help you raise your family’s happiness factor but will also contribute towards optimum brain health:
1- Connect with each other
It doesn’t take a lot of planning or energy to just sit down with your little one and connect with him. A mere half an hour of undivided attention towards your child can do wonders for both of you.
Sit on the floor and play with your toddler’s favorite toys, play peekaboo or simply make funny faces that crack him up. Choose activities that you enjoy and do them with your child. If you love to dance, just turn on the music and move around.
Just a few unstructured moments of happiness with your child can rest assured leave you feeling refreshed and charged.
2- Don’t be guilty
Are you always sweating yourself over the fact that you don’t take your child to the events everyone else seems to be going to? Don’t worry, the happiest childhood memories usually comprise the spontaneous play sessions with Mom and Dad, instead of the pro baseball game or a trip to the storyteller.
As long as you are engaged with your child, a scaled-down approach works well too. A two-year-old will be happy to see lobsters at the grocery store or fishes at the pet store, if you are unable to take him to the zoo. A walk in the park while holding a balloon can be just as joyful as going to the circus.
3- Make work feel like play
Washing the dishes may be a boring old chore for you, but for your child, it is a terrific fun project. It’s all about the approach you take. Playfulness doesn’t have to be limited to toys. Transform work into play, and make it a valuable family time.
It might take a bit longer for the task to get done, but the kids will be proud and satisfied at the end of the day. Working as a team also dissolves the traditional hierarchies between parents and children, enabling them to connect at a deeper level.
4- Create family rituals
Just as helping out with chores makes the children feel important, so does participating in regularly scheduled family rituals. A consistent and regular activity in the family makes them feel grounded and helps them put away individual preferences for each other’s sake.
It doesn’t have to be anything fancy. Cook a hearty Sunday breakfast together or plan a family game night to help the whole family bond.
5- Expect the unexpected
As much as children love being a part of family rituals, they are also thrilled by surprises. Break the norm and plan a few unexpected activities once in a while. You can leave a written clue under their dinner place, which leads to a hidden treat or plan a spontaneous trip to the park. These small gestures make big impressions and memories!
6- Don’t forget to laugh
One of the classic attributes of joyful families is that they have an enduring sense of humor. Happy families laugh a lot, and it helps them relieve stress.
It may not be easy to lighten up the mood when you are stuck in traffic and the kids are whining, but try your best to transform these moments into playful ones. Remember, you are a role model for your kids and you are the only one who can make them learn how to turn stressful moments into happy ones.
Once you decide to turn to joyful parenting approaches, you will bond with your children in a much more effective way. When parents and children are emotionally close and attached to each other, the parent’s brain releases oxytocin and dopamine, both of which activate feelings of pleasure and reward in the left hemisphere of the brain. The parent experiences a sense of calm and a rush of gratifying feelings, which opens up doors for empathy, self-awareness and emotional control. This is how joyful parenting brings a neurobiological change in the brain, which leads to positive and fulfilling parent-child relationships.