How to Be a Happier Parent

This podcast will focus on how to be a happier parent. Parental happiness matters and has great benefits for the entire family. However, between the hustle and bustle of the mornings, coping with homework, dealing with bedtime battles and more, many parents don’t put themselves first. KJ Dell-Antonia tells us why it’s important to make the shift to ensuring our own happiness by investigating different problem areas in our lives and making needed changes ASAP!

Special Guest: KJ Dell’Antonia

Well, here’s some troubling news. For many years, research has shown that non-parents are happier than parents. In today’s world where many parents are often shuttling kids from one destination to another, coping with high anxiety around school, sports, college, their children’s friends, their children’s interests, screen time, keeping their children safe and perhaps also trying to keep up with the Jones too- there seems to be a “happiness gap” between childless adults and those who have children. This is NOT what we had imagined when we pictured family life, is it? So the question is- is it possible to change our families and our family lives so that they are full of the joy that we always hoped for?

Five years of editing the Motherlode column for the New York Times taught KJ Dell’Antonia this: family can be a source of joy, not stress. Her reporting and research on parental happiness led to her new forthcoming book, “How to Be a Happier Parent,” available in August, 2018. She writes regularly on the personal and policy aspects of parenthood for the New York Times and other publications, and sends out a weekly tiny letter on being a happier parent (even when she’s not). She lives in New Hampshire with her husband, four children and assorted horses, chickens, dogs and cats.

The podcast provides:

  • The number one thing that parents say are making them unhappy
  • The biggest challenges parents face when trying to fine joy in their families.
  • Tips: What happier parents do differently.
  • How parental happiness is reflected in our kids.
  • Scripts: How to talk to kids about our happiness, as parents.
  • The biggest changes that can be made in our families and our family life that would play into parental happiness

Important Messages:

  • Many parents say they’d rather do laundry than spend time with the kids—what’s up with that?
  • Parents say that the thing they liked the least about parenting is discipline.
  • People feel happy when they are able to do it and they are getting it done- they feel competent and confident.
  • Happier parents (1) are more involved with their children when the kids are younger but gradually are less involved when kids get older. (2) have their own thing going (career, passion, hobby) that is a priority beyond family life (3) Know the difference between the things that are their kids problems and the things that are their problems, (4) know how to soak in those good moments.
  • If you take on your child’s negative emotions, the child may be less likely to tell you what’s really going on or fake feeling better because they don’t want to upset you.
  • We’ve got to let our children feel miserable sometimes! It’s ok!
  • Sometimes kids just want us to listen—and not try to help!
  • Parents who were happier with their own lives, wished the same kind of life for their kids. Those who were unhappy with their lives did not want their children to have the same kind of lives. But let’s not have our children have to trade up. Let’s create a life for ourselves that make us happy.
  • Kids want to know that they are part of a hierarchy but they don’t come first- they are comforted by that.
  • Talk to your children about the importance of getting more sleep and why it’s integral to being more happy.
  • Sibling rivalry is completely normal—and expected.
  • You have to think of the big picture- you may want to just make things easy- but you need to teach your kid the lesson now so you get what you want later. But you don’t have to get it right all the time.

Notable Quotables:

  • “When parents are happier, families are happier and kids are happier. That’s just the way it is.”
  • “It’s hard to be a parent. It’s hard to put your heart into something that now walks around in the world and sometimes tells you it hates you.”
  • “The parent generation right now stretches from boomer to millennial. We are all in that rug rat race of ‘I can’t really do this the way that my parents did because so much is different and so much of what the other people are doing around me is different. I don’t know what to do within myself and when I look around the things I do as a result of that is not making me happy.”
  • “Happier parents know the difference between things that are their kids’ problems and the things that are their own problems.”
  • “Happier parents know how to soak in the good moments. They take a minute to feel them and take them in. When parents build those up in their brains and teach their brains to pay attention to those good things as opposed to just the bad things, you get this reservoir of support that helps you when they’re screaming and you’ve pulled over the car because you can’t take it anymore.”
  • “You can be happy when your children are not. One of the glorious benefits of being an adult is that you know that there is always another Thomas train, there’s always another balloon. There’s always another sports team. There’s another college!
  • “It’s good for kids to know that their emotions are separate from ours. We don’t want to give our kids the burden of keeping us happy.
  • “You don’t put your kids first unless they are bleeding. Your kids should know that. You should have things that you will choose even if it’s inconvenient to them.”
  • “It’s ok for parents to have plans that bring you your own individual joy. It’s not just ok, it’s important! Are you raising your children with the idea that they will be slaves to their kids?
  • “It’s not that you matter in equal measure to your kids. Sometimes, you matter more. You are the grown-up. You can do things that they can not. You can take care of them. You can earn money. So sometimes, your needs are more important than their needs. That’s part of the deal . Tat’s part of the reason we want to grow up and get big—so we can make our own choices and be at the top of the hierarchy.”
  • “If we teach our kids that their gymnastics class is more important than our job or going to the hospital to take care of our sick mother or heck, our haircut, we are not teaching them something useful because the rest of the world is not going to put their gymnastics class first.”
  • “The biggest single thing families can do to be happier is to get more sleep.”
  • “What you want now isn’t always what you want later.”