1. Start with yourself: be happy!
Extensive research has shown that parents who are depressed transmit these downbeat feelings to their children. The same is true for all adults who are important in a child's life. If you are a happy grandparent, your grandchildren will be happy to be near you. Why? Because neuroscientists think that if we hear another person laugh, it triggers mirror neurons in a part of our brain, and this makes us feel like we are the ones laughing - and so we laugh in turn. So, be merry yourself! Put yourself next to people who make you laugh, and bring that joy to your grandchildren or children too.
2. Show them how to build friendships
Research in multiple sclerosis patients shows that if we are encouraged to provide compassion, support, and positivity to others, we will improve our own self-confidence and self-esteem. The same is true for children, so you should often try to encourage youngsters to "perform small acts of kindness" in order to help them create edifying bonds with others.
3. Encourage effort, but don't expect perfection
In this day and age, many parents can be overly pushy and demanding of their children's performances, and this is something grandparents may be able to help with. If you happen to be a grandparent, try and set a good example rather than criticize your children's parental approach (doing so is likely to cause resentment). It has been found that children who are praised for their cleverness will choose the easier of two puzzles, not willing to make a mistake their parents might criticize.
However, 90% of "growth mind-set-encouraged kids" choose the harder puzzle, because they know that both their effort and achievement will be rewarded. Always be sure to encourage effort, regardless of the outcome, and kids will actually be more adventurous in the long run.
4. Be positive and optimistic
According to Dr. Carter, optimists do better at school, work and sports. They are healthier and live longer. They also have more satisfying marriages when they grow up and are less likely to face depression and anxiety. Therefore, to be a good role model, always be wary of sounding pessimistic when your grandchildren are around. Put a positive spin on everything, and show them the brighter side of life.
5. Show them how to "Empathize, Label and Validate"
The best way to teach emotional intelligence, which Dr. Carter says is not innate, is to demonstrate it yourself. So if a little kid is having a small tantrum about something, ask them how they feel, and why they feel that way. Comfort them and show understanding emotions. These things will demonstrate to the child how they can empathize with others. Though of course, you should still rebuke any bad behavior they are showing.
6. Make good happiness habits
Because there are quite a few different tips here to remember, it is important not to do too much at once. The key is to form good habits. Dr. Carter recommends removing stimuli that could distract children from your goal. You should make your behavior goal public, having an open discussion with the kids about expectations and pressure. Only set one goal at a time so a good foundation for a positive habit can be formed. After this has been achieved, move on to the next goal. Always keep at it with the expectation that this education will take time, yet it will be worth the effort in the long run.
7. Teach them to be self-disciplined
Far from intelligence being the most important gauge of future success, the virtue that offers the clearest signal of well-being is good self-discipline. Kids who, in one experiment, resisted temptation - the temptation of a first marshmallow for the promise of a second - went on to perform better in their adolescent and adult lives. So, one way we can teach self-discipline is to obscure a future reward, for example covering up the marshmallow so the child knows it is there but has a physical barrier to help them build resistance. Make the offer of the sweet treat after an extended period of time. This will teach them deferred gratification.
8. Encourage more and more playtime
One of the reasons why modern kids are thought to be less happy than we were is that they have less time for "free, unstructured play". Such playtime is said to help children to self-regulate, promoting "intellectual, physical, social and emotional well-being". If kids are given more budgeted time to play freely, they will better learn "how to work in groups, share, negotiate, resolve conflicts... and speak up for themselves." So, when they are in your hands, let them know there is plenty of time for them to play freely - and you can follow their imaginative lead.
9. Create a perfect environment for their happiness
Research has shown a correlation (not causation) between children who don't watch much television and people who have grown up to lead happy lives. So, when you have the kids in your hands, it would be good to show that you don't need to watch TV or YouTube to have fun. Create a nice, happy and healthy environment for them if you can - one that they can form strong associations with.
10. Eat meals together
If you show children that the proper way to eat (without the TV on) is together as a family, chances are that they will become more emotionally stable, and collectively-oriented. Many children fall prey to destructive private habits in their early adulthood, such as drugs and alcohol. Yet studies show, according to Dr. Carter, that kids who enjoy regular family meals will largely avoid these pitfalls. She says that "family dinners even trump reading to your kids in terms of preparing them for school."
This is something that grandparents can actively encourage, even if you are not as used to it as you used to be. It's a healthy habit worth resurrecting - for the kids and your sake! So why not get cooking, you may even be able to teach the kids how to.