Happiness can be an elusive element in the lives of families who have children with special needs. Oftentimes there are a lot of other priorities to chase after that appears, on the offset, to be more important. Just the basics like getting healthy meals on the table, organizing kids for school, getting regular health checkups and household tasks can be tend to fill up the daily schedule.
Parents of children with disabilities have a lot of issues to navigate through the day without worrying if their kids are happy and if they are happy themselves. But is that the right attitude? Well our forefathers thought of happiness as important enough to declare it a right when they wrote it into the Constitution of the United States by adding, “certain unalienable rights … the pursuit of happiness.”
So let's trust our founding fathers and explore some ways that parents of children with special needs can, in fact, pursue happiness; and sprinkle some into the lives of their children. By providing ideas, parents may find it a little easier to catch some happiness and keep it around the house for a while.
Here are ten tips to capturing happiness for families of children with special needs:
- Play more. Play is not a frivolous thing, but has huge developmental benefits for kids. It is also a great relaxer, refresher and re-charger of the personal batteries for the whole family. In fact, the Convention on the Rights of the Child conducted by the United Nations Commission on Human Rights declares, “Children have the right to relax and play, and to join in a wide range of cultural, artistic, and other recreational activities.”
- Share more-especially meals. We all know it can be a challenge to get an entire family around a table and put a meal in front of them. But studies show that this one act has profound effect on all members, including an increase in their overall happiness. Meals are a priority, but anytime a family can gather together, even in the car, they should take the opportunity to share stories, ideas or a little silliness. Happiness will often follow.
- Get outdoors more. It is awful that the term “nature deficit disorder,” has even crept into our culture, particularly in reference to our children. But it has and it's getting worse. Recess is being whittled away at schools. Parents are afraid to open their doors and let kids roam their neighborhoods and green is a harder color for kids to find around their communities these days. Fresh air, growing plants or trees and the ability to focus on the horizon all add an element of happiness to this life we share together.
- Listen to music more. There is even a term for that “music therapy.” That's right, a whole field of study exists that has the research and results behind it showing music can enrich and reward us in many ways. It is also a great way to pick up a faltering mood and relax an over-active mind. You can seek a level of happiness by listening to the sounds of soothing music, hearing nature sounds like rain and waves or loosing yourself in the rhythm of a melody.
- Move more. We all share one thing in common–we have a physical body. It makes sense that it was made to move, yet sometimes we don't build this into our day. All kinds of body functions improve if we move our bodies– from our breathing and blood pressure to digestive and elimination. Parents of children with disabilities need to encourage, model and motivate their kids to move more. It is a way to feel better physically and emotionally and that is a first step towards the staircase to happiness.
So take a page out of the U.S. Constitution and pursue happiness as parents of children with special needs. Play, share, get outside, listen to music and move about more. If you do, you might just find more happiness moving in with the family.