Children’s brains and future behaviours are significantly shaped during the first few years of life. According to research, increased brain development in both babies and their carers is a result of their shared happiness. This sense of joy gives a child a sense of security, which enhances their overall happiness and enables them to deal with the difficulties of life.
Parents and other adults who care for children are a huge influence in a toddler’s early years of development and play a big part in their thinking. They can aid them in overcoming challenges in life by giving them the skills to recognise, understand, and express their emotions.
As a result, parents and carers should place a high priority on developing deep relationships with their children and identifying opportunities for shared joy.
Encouragement of children to explore their interests and passions is another crucial component of fostering happiness and joy in them – as well as supporting brain development in the early years. Children who are given the chance to pursue interests they have a passion for typically feel happier and more fulfilled. Additionally, taking part in meaningful activities can strengthen self-confidence and foster a sense of purpose, which improves mental and emotional health.
We asked Clinical Psychologist Jaimie Bloch to tell us more about the correlation between joy in the early years of development and resilience.
“Babies are “hard-wired” to experience joy with their caregivers in the early months of life,” Jaimie says. “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.”
According to Jaimie, 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. Therefore, if we teach children from birth that the world is safe, life is joyful and challenges create growth and development they will be able to express this in their ways of thinking, how they manage life’s challenges and experience life’s joys.
Ahead, Jaimie shares three important pieces of advice for setting kids up for success when it comes to brain growth in the early years and how to foster happiness in them.
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.
By practicing these three simple steps, we can set our kids up for a lifetime of resilience and, hopefully, plenty of joyful moments too.
Jaimie Bloch is a Clinical Psychologist, Behavioural Expert, Researcher and Program Developer.
She is passionate about working with youth and adults in understanding, developing and managing the human experience. Jaimie has been working with youth and adults within a range of contexts since 2007. She is an expert behavioural consultant for children and adolescents and has a special interest in the treatment, creation and management of interventions both in individual, group, school and online forums for children, adolescents, adults and families.
Jaimie has spent years studying and perfecting her craft with a Bachelor of Psychological Science, a Bachelor of Psychological Science (Honours), a Graduate Diploma of Professional Psychology and a Master’s of Psychology (Clinical).