Babies are “hard-wired” to experience joy with their caregivers in the early months of life. Researchers have found that mutual joy is the basis for increased brain growth in both baby and toddler brains. A baby feels more secure knowing that “my caregiver is calm and happy” “life is good because my caregivers are connected and joyful when s/he is with me.”
The first few years of a child’s life creates the roadmap for their brains and the latter behaviours, understandings and management of life’s joys and difficulties. If we teach children from birth that the world is safe, life is joyful and challenges create growth and development then they will be able to express this in their ways of thinking, how they manage life’s challenges and experience life’s joys.
Ways to help wire your child’s brain for happiness and joy.
1. Teach them about their emotions and their body connection from the toddler years
Growing evidence suggests that we find it harder to manage our emotions when we are unable to identify and label the variety of emotions we experience at any given time. You may hear a child express that their ‘belly hurts’ when they are anxious. Or if you ask how their day was they may answer with “good” or “fine”. Encourage them to really express how they are feeling. You may want to share with them how you feel in your body when you experience different emotions.
2. Commonly ask things like:
- How did that make you feel?
- When that happened did you feel excited or upset?
- Do you think your belly hurts because you are nervous about something?
3. Give yourself and your child space to make mistakes!
No-one is perfect. The best role-modelling for joy we can do is embrace the hard parts of life and the mistakes we make through acknowledgement and compassion towards self.