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Verified by Psychology Today

Alexis Dallara-Marsh M.D.

Cultivating Your Youngster's Joy in Life

Six tips for fostering the well-being of the next generation.

It's not easy being a kid. Particularly in today's fast-paced, high-stakes society. Amongst teens, the chances of developing depression are approximately 1 in 10 in one year. Anxiety disorders in adolescence are even more prevalent, with anywhere from 10 to 30 percent of teenagers affected. Further problems associated with these conditions include an increased risk of educational underachievement, other mood or psychiatric disturbances, substance abuse, and suicide, in addition to other significant functional impairments that can extend into adulthood.

So what's one to do?

Here are some examples of ensuring the best chances of happiness for your youngster:

Identify personal interests — Teens must have the opportunity to reflect on themselves and develop insight regarding what they enjoy and don't enjoy. What can they imagine staying excited about in the middle of the night, or if having to miss a social gathering due to a job obligation? Classic phrases, like "Know thyself" and "Follow your heart," come to mind.

Make time for hobbies — Does your child have a balanced life, or is it solely dedicated to schooling or another activity? Is there enough time for regular physical activity? What is the amount of time exclusively reserved for prayer and spiritual health, or meditation if non-religious?

Avoid distractions — There is clear evidence to support that "filler-time," such as browsing social media, the internet, and television, is associated with increased anxiety and depression rates. This may be for a variety of reasons, from skewed views of one's identity to physical effects on sleep. Set limits and strictly enforce these, providing alternative incentives to children if necessary.

Avoid making career choices based on societal perception — Studies suggest the ideal income for happiness is anywhere from $65,000-$105,000, though one's number of dependents and living in a high or low cost-of-living area will also influence this for each individual. The definition of happiness can also be influenced by one's wealth. One study showed those with more money reported a greater tendency to associate happiness with themselves, such as feeling successful, whereas individuals with lower salaries were more likely to experience emotions that focus on others, such as compassion and love in the world around them. Remember, it is often difficult to switch careers.

Avoiding picking schools because "they look good on paper" — The amount of debt one can acquire from choosing a private rather than public school, for example, can become debilitating to even the most satisfied adults. Additionally, if a school is likely to be too competitive or "toxic" for a student, it should be avoided at all costs. Transitions to high school and college can already be the most stressful times of one's life without the added pressures.

Show and tell that your child is loved — It is extremely important for family members to spend high-quality time with one another. Younger children need protected playtime. Older children, on the other hand, need appropriate levels of space but also opportunities for meaningful conversation. Sitting down to at least one meal a day can be helpful when able. It is crucial to teach children that what others say or think about them doesn't matter. High links of childhood depression and anxiety in the school setting are commonly associated with peer pressure, competition, and perfectionism.

Did I miss anything, or would you change any of the above advice? Share your thoughts and ideas on how you enhance well-being with your most precious gifts!