June is PRIDE Month

June is PRIDE month. It might be redundant, but I feel the need to reiterate that every group should be celebrated, respected and supported each and every day. We know from statistics and research that there is no more vulnerable group than LGBTQ+ youth. Yet, even the most informed and conscientious adult allies of LGBTQ+ kids can be confused about the ever-evolving labels and are unsure about the most affirming ways to support queer and gender questioning young people.

In my work with children, adolescents, and their parents, I am often in the position of explaining to parents the ways in which their children are exploring their gender and sexual identities. The way in which we identify ourselves is always in flux. Childhood is inherently a time of self exploration and creative self identification. When elementary and middle school children express that they are curious about their gender or sexuality or they disclose ways in which they would like to be addressed or clothes they would like to wear, parents often respond by asking, “How do you know? Are you sure?”. Sometimes parents continue with something like, “If you aren’t sure about your gender or sexuality, do you have to tell people or post it on social media? Can you wait?”.

I feel for parents in this position and their sleepless nights worrying about their children’s pronouns and identity. As adults, we become fixated on specific points in time for our kids. If I could give parents one tip it would be to handle the micro moments of your child’s life with compassion (towards yourself and your children) while also looking at the big picture. It is understandable to wonder about your children’s proclamations being indicative of a fleeting phase. But when we question the impermanence of our children’s important disclosures they feel misunderstood and devalued. Big picture, how would you like your child to remember you when they tell you something really important? In the future, do you want them to continue to see you as someone they can share personal information with? So, rather than dismissing this information as “kids being kids”, listen without interjecting your opinions. You want them to see you as someone who can hear them without judgment.

Your child’s gender and sexuality is so deeply personal and vital to their sense of self. Be curious. Ask open ended questions and put yourself in your kids shoes. Chances are this has been on your child’s mind for a while and you would not want them to go back into their shell or live with a sense of shame. Wonder with them about how it feels to say what they told you outloud. Ask them if this is something they have been feeling for a long time. Ask them if they want you to look for resources that might give support and lend clarity for both of you. Do not give them the impression that it is their job to educate you. Seek out credible LGBTQ+ resources if you need information. Remember that gender and sexuality are different things. There seems to be so much that we, as adults, don’t understand. Don’t let your discomfort prevent you from seeking out help and clarity.

Below is some very basic information that might help you be as open minded as possible when your children want to have a discussion about gender and sexual identity. It is taken from a guide created by the Trevor Project which is an amazing resource for parents and young people in the LGBTQ+ community (https//www.thetrevorproject.org). The Trevor Project’s mission is to make sure that LGBTQ+ young people who need support know they are not alone. They have a great online resource center that will help educate you and they offer 24/7 crisis support for teens in danger of harming themselves living throughout the United States (Text ‘START” to 678-678 or call 1-866-488-7386). If you are a parent in the Westchester, NY area, a wonderful local resource is Center Lane for LGBTQ+ Youth run by WJCS (https://www.wjcs.com). Center Lane provides affirming programming, facilitated by supportive adult experts in welcoming space where youth can feel safe sharing difficult experiences.



Sex is the classification of a person as male, female, or intersex. When we are born, doctors usually decide whether female or male will be listed on our birth certificate. This sex assignment at birth is typically based solely on one’s genitals, however sex characteristics also include chromosomes, gonads, and sex hormones. Intersex is an umbrella term used to describe variations in physical sex traits or reproductive anatomy that are present at birth or emerge spontaneously later in life, and differ from normative expectations of “male” and “female.”

Someone’s sex characteristics is private information. When someone shares their gender identity with you, it is invasive and inappropriate to assume or try to deduce that person’s sex assigned at birth. Believe others when they say who they are, and support them.


Gender describes the internal experience of being a man, a woman, a nonbinary person, or otherwise. Every person experiences gender differently — and you cannot know someone’s gender by simply looking at them.

Common Genders

  • Cisgender: people whose gender identity aligns with the sex they were assigned at birth.
  • >Transgender: people whose gender identity differs from the sex they were assigned at birth. Some folks might choose to receive certain gender affirming care but this is not necessary and each person should be allowed to choose what works best for themselves.
  • Nonbinary: an umbrella term to describe people who experience their gender identity and/or expression outside of the male/female/ man/woman binary, including folks who are genderfluid, genderqueer, polygender, bigender, demigender, agender, and many others.



Gender expression describes the way in which people present or express their gender, including physical appearance, clothing, hairstyles, and behavior. People can exert a certain degree of control over their gender expression depending on their resources and environment.


A “perceived gender” is based on how people evaluate each other’s gender and bodies, which unlike gender expression, we cannot control. People perceive gender based on a variety of visual and social cues, including but not limited to a person’s gender expression, physical characteristics, and the social role they play.

Being an ally to trans and nonbinary people in your life means refraining from making assumptions about people’s gender in general. You can’t tell someone’s gender by looking at them. Be aware of the expectations you project onto others based on how you perceive gender, and choose to validate people’s experiences.

WAYS TO ADDRESS LGBTQ+ persons that Show Respect


Some trans and nonbinary people choose a new name that aligns with their gender. It can be something entirely new or a variation on their old name. The process of legally changing your name can be expensive and complicated, and may not be possible for someone right away. Be supportive of trans and nonbinary folks by honoring and using the names they choose regardless of whether their name has been legally changed.


A pronoun is a word that is used instead of a noun to refer to someone. Some examples of pronouns that people commonly use include:

  • She, her, her, hers, and herself
  • He, him, his, his, and himself
  • They, them, their, theirs, and themself
  • Ze/zie, hir, hir, hirs, and hirself
  • Xe, xem, xyr, xyrs, and xemself
  • Ve, ver, vis, vis, and verself


To misgender someone means to use the wrong name, pronouns, or form of address for a person’s gender. Whether misgendering happens as an innocent mistake or a malicious attempt to invalidate a person, it is deeply hurtful and can even put a person’s safety at risk if they are outed as transgender in an environment that is not tolerant.

Purposefully misgendering is not OK, and you can be a good ally by standing up for others if you witness someone being harassed for their gender. If you misgender someone by accident, apologize swiftly without making an excessive show out of the mistake or your guilt, which can create even more discomfort for the person who has been misgendered. Show that you care by doing better moving forward.


Microaggressions are everyday comments and questions that can be hurtful or stigmatizing to marginalized people and groups. Microaggressions are subtle, and the person committing the microaggression may have no idea that their comments are harmful.

For example, a common comment that transgender people may hear is, “You don’t look trans!” or “You don’t look gay” This is often phrased as a compliment, however it implies that being transgender is a negative thing, or that all people want to be perceived as cisgender. Since microaggressions are subtle, do your best and listen to any feedback you may receive. If someone’s feelings are hurt by something you’ve said or done, take the time to understand and to learn from the experience.

What To Do If You’ve Offended Someone

While we rarely intend to hurt others, common mistakes such as forgetting a person’s pronouns, using their birth name instead of their chosen name, or misgendering a person can hurt feelings or even put another person’s safety at risk. In these moments, it’s good to have a roadmap for how to make things right.

Commit To Do Better

Treat it as a learning experience. The most authentic apology is meaningless if there is no change or if the behavior is repeated consistently in the future.

Show you care by doing better next time.

TrevorLifeline, TrevorText & TrevorChat

LGBTQ+ young people in search of support can contact The Trevor Project 24/7 through our TrevorLifeline at 1-866-488-7386, via chat at TheTrevorProject.org/Help, or by texting START to 678-678.

Becoming A Mother

Mother’s Day 2023 represents my 25th year as a mother. I took the occasion to reflect upon and empathize with the experiences of the young mothers who are my colleagues and of those that I currently treat. Looking back on the moment I realized that I was pregnant in the Spring of 1997, I feel a twinge of shame as I recall the panic that rushed through me. I was working out in a gym and felt something stir inside me that I have never felt before. I described the sensation to my husband who could not imagine that we were pregnant. A surgery to correct the impact of endometriosis had left the doctors to assume that becoming pregnant would be an arduous task for me. I was in shock when the faint line appeared on the little plastic test applicator of the at home pregnancy kit. I didn’t feel like my reaction was anything akin to the marketing images of joyous couples in carefree embraces on their bathroom floors. First time pregnancy was terrifying to me. Despite the fact that I had worked with children and was training to be a psychologist, I felt completely ill equipped to be a mother. In the 1990’s and early 2000’s, pop psychology books and professional literature engendered shame and fear in those of us who felt ambivalent about becoming a mother. I knew that I wanted children, but the pragmatic ramifications and changes to my body were intimidating. My doctoral dissertation on the transition to motherhood was born from my own insecurities as a pregnant woman. I was also curious to see if other expectant mothers were struggling the way I was.

As our Clear Mind Psychology Reproductive Mental Health Team has begun to visit new mothers in their homes, or treat pregnant and postpartum parents virtually and in our offices, I am dismayed to hear the same stories of physical and emotional pain, misdirected shame, and disappointment in expectant and new mothers today that I, and my research subjects, felt over two decades ago. What?! Seriously?! No movement at all in the way new parents feel and the way they are supported by society? This is so hard to believe.

My old research was divided into four areas of interest. First, the meaning of work for pregnant women and new mothers; second, the physical sensations of pregnancy and new parenthood; third, the emotional reactions to pregnancy, childbirth, and early parenthood; and lastly, the marital relationships and the transition to parenthood. Below are some of the conclusions that I reached at the end of my study.

Broken Myths:

  1. Most new mothers describe their work and home lives as being at odds with one another. It is a struggle for many new mothers to make peace with their “professional go-getter self” and their deep desires to be a “good mother.”
  2. Technology makes it very difficult for many women to immerse themselves into their new role as a mother to a newborn.
  3. Many women were more afraid of “messing up” in their new role as a mother than they were about continuing a successful trajectory at work. They expressed feeling more comfortable functioning at work than at home.
  4. Women with very intense careers rarely changed their busy work schedules while pregnant (most worked over 45 hours a week) and wanted to work as much as possible before giving birth so they would not lose ground, compared to other workers.
  5. The physical and emotional challenges of the postpartum period, including sleep deprivation, were the most challenging aspects of new motherhood for most women. Most women felt unprepared for the challenges.
  6. Pregnancy and the road to parenthood required relinquishing control over one’s lifestyle, emotional life, and body. Pregnant women were naturally concerned about the changes to their bodies. The intensity of these fears increased after their children were born, when they couldn’t easily explain their swollen bodies to onlookers and when taking care of a newborn prevented physical exercise.
  7. Most women perceived that they lacked control over decisions made in the delivery room. They responded to their doctor’s decisions to induce labor with anger and shame as if their bodies didn’t work properly.
  8. The fantasy of how the birth of their child would go was very different from the reality. Most women felt guilty that their first moments with their newborn were not without pain and exhaustion.
  9. Women who had experienced pregnancy loss and treatment for infertility were far more anxious and had a harder time imagining the baby growing inside them than others who conceived more easily.
  10. Concerning their relationship with their romantic partner, many women are less likely to want to have sex while pregnant or while caring for their newborn. This is a concern that very few couples speak openly about and can be a big strain on romantic relationships.

Tips to ease the transition to parenthood:

  1. Know that sometimes professionals and parenting “experts” have become accustomed to creating formulas and step by step parenting advice because this information sells books and garners readers.
  2. It is more than ok to listen to your gut about a decision that you make regarding your body or your newborn child. You will start the path toward parenthood when you listen to your own voice.
  3. Use only well researched resources for information regarding pregnancy and new parenthood (some suggestions are listed below). Googling everything will not help your mental health.
  4. Accepting that your body and life are not in the same shape they were several months ago. Be kind to yourself and don’t rush your recovery process.
  5. Reassurance and open communication with your partner about how your body feels regarding sex is very important. Ask for what you need- perhaps asking your partner for a brief massage is more realistic than having sex. Touch and intimacy are still important albeit not always realistic.
  6. New parenthood is hard. Share your fears and frustrations with trusted family and friends and seek help if you feel isolated. Shame and guilt are unhelpful emotions when you are simply trying your best.
  7. Remember, striving for perfection is not the healthiest or most effective way toward optimal parenthood. It is ok to let a baby cry for a short period of time so that a parent can nap or get things done. Infants will eventually figure out ways to self soothe when we give them a chance to sit with mild discomfort.

New parenthood should not be a point in time riddled with guilt and shame. Society can do a better job portraying more balanced images of pregnancy and parenting. Those of us who carry fetuses inside our bodies can be more honest and open about the vast array of emotions and physical challenges associated with pregnancy and new parenthood. No one should feel alone about their experiences of the harrowing challenges of breastfeeding, the emotional isolation of caring for a newborn or the strain on romantic partnerships. One of the most shameful moments of new motherhood for me was when I complained to someone about my exhaustion and the physical and emotional pain I felt right after my first child was born. The person responded by saying, “Why aren’t you happy? You should be so happy, you have always wanted to have children.” Needless to say, that conversation was not helpful, only resulting in my feeling judged.

In my work, I pride myself on my ability to validate parents. Recently, I have become more conscious of the ways in which society unconsciously endorses society’s toxic positivity relate to pregnancy and parenthood. We should all remember that almost every human experience can bring the bad and the good. Feelings of gratitude and frustration can be experienced at the same time. It is with a sense of purpose and pride that we, at Clear Mind, continue to work with new parents on the challenges associated with parenthood in order to ease the transitions that all new parents encounter.

Discovering Happiness: What’s All The Fuss About?

Discovering Happiness: What’s All The Fuss About? I am admittedly a sucker for smiley faces- and rainbows and unicorns give me a dopamine hit that is more satisfying than it should be. But recently, I have felt ambivalent about the concept of happiness and how it is represented in “wellness” and “parenting” media. Like other nebulous expectations such as “success” or “being good”, happiness is one of those goals that is too broad and intangible to guide effective living or parenting. I have worked in the field of psychology for over thirty five years and I have rarely seen such a frenzy as the happiness literature that is pervasive in media, self help, and even academia. What is going on? The most recent cover of Time magazine (I still read full-fledged paper publications) exuberantly features “The Secrets of Happiness Experts” and The New York Times is currently devoting an entire wellness section on “How To Be Happy”.

I humbly doubt that my thoughts on happiness rival those featured in these esteemed publications, but I am confident that after treating thousands of patients of all ages, my perspective is unique and helpful. In the late 80’s and 90’s, I started my career working with children and adults infected and affected by HIV/AIDS. This was a time when the outcome of this disease was not at all hopeful. And yet, I distinctly remember our team of medical and support professionals making the important decision to celebrate with our patients every chance we got. Our philosophy was that to be fully present with our patients during times of sorrow, we also had to share with them moments of joy. It may sound strange, but to experience happiness within the context of indescribable pain represents the best part of human beings. Since then I have wondered about my own relationship with happiness.

There is very little agreement about the scientific definition of happiness, even amongst happiness researchers. Happiness scientists agree on one point, that personal circumstances and material wealth impact our happiness much less than we expect. Other than those living in extreme poverty, most of us can cultivate the skills that allow us to notice and feel contentment. Time and time again, studies show that meaningful connections to others, to yourself, and to activities that you care about, are what make people happy.

Don’t be misled by the marketing from the “happiness” cottage industry:- there isn’t a surefire formula that results in happiness. And, as humans, our DNA is not programmed to be happy all the time. Human evolution would not have taken place if we had been content all the time. Sustained happiness is a result of hard work, self-awareness, the ability to connect with others, and the capacity to train your thoughts to notice the positives. Authentic happiness occurs when there is an accumulation of moments that fill us with a sense of joy (a more intense emotion), feelings of satisfaction (kind of in the middle of the emotions spectrum) and contentment (more subtle emotion). Negative emotions will naturally always exist. Optimally, when difficult situations occur, we learn to manage negative feelings in a more skillful way so that we can get back to a state of equilibrium that allows us to have the capacity to be happy.

My interest in the topic of happiness is not merely professional or theoretical. I grew up in a family that made me feel destined to lead an unhappy and complicated life. My parents did the best they could despite alcoholism and mental illness, but as a child, loneliness, fear, and confusion made me feel different from my peers. The Dialectic Behavior Therapy concept of “radical acceptance” has dramatically changed my association with happiness. Dialectic Behavior Therapy (DBT) was founded by Marsha Linehan and is essentially a collection of skills that lead patients to live a life worth living. Radical Acceptance encourages us to look at past negative events head on and without judgment. Denying that difficult or traumatic experiences have happened does not make us happy. Inherent to radical acceptance is the notion that what happened to us was likely not our fault, but it is unfortunately our responsibility to learn how to live with it. This concept has been powerful in my happiness journey. Only recently have I begun to lean into my own happiness. By accepting my past, I no longer work to change it which has freed up my time and energy to work on my present.

I am a faithful believer in a handful of legitimate happiness gurus. Happiness is being studied and contemplated by some of the most brilliant minds: from the Dalai Lama to Martin Seligman, the co-founder of Positive Psychology (the scientific study of optimal human functioning). Seligman has spent his invaluable career studying the elements that humans can cultivate in their lives to bring meaningful change. He is the author of many best selling books including, Authentic Happiness, Learned Optimism, and The Optimistic Child. The Dalai Lama has also centered much of his philosophy and daily practice on the meaning of happiness. He asserts that the goal of human life is to be happy. He concludes that “The ultimate source of happiness is a mental feeling of joy, and not a wealth of material goods. The sensory pleasure material things provide is generally short-lived. Such satisfaction does little to allay anxiety and fear. On the other hand, mental joy sustains itself.”

Seligman and his colleagues at The University of Pennsylvania suggest that there are five elements of a meaningful life: positive emotion, engagement, relationships, meaning, and accomplishments. Dr. Christine Carter and Nurse Rona Renner of The Greater Good Science Center at The University of California, Berkeley refer to a similar set of skills to foster in ourselves and our children; optimism, compassion, inspiration/awe, love, and regulating negative emotions. And, Laurie Santos, Professor of Psychology at Yale, the host of the podcast, The Happiness Lab and the teacher of the free Coursera course, “The Science of Happiness” has suggested that to be happy we must 1) Get Social 2) Give Thanks 3) Be in the Moment 4) Rest and Move 5) Be Kind. If this all sounds easier said than done, you are not alone!

Let’s get real. It is far from easy to maintain happiness in our daily lives. Sonja Lyubomirsky is a distinguished professor/researcher of psychology at the University of California Riverside, the author of The How of Happiness (2007) and The Myths of Happiness (2013 ), and an admitted neighsayer to all things smiley face and rainbow. Her lab discovered that there is a genetic component to our subjective experience of happiness. While we all have the capacity to feel happy, some of us experience joy and pleasure at a more subdued level than others. This point is important, especially to parents who can benefit from knowing that it is ok if their childrens’ subjective levels of happiness vary. The lack of a clear definition of happiness and the expectation of raising happy children is making us, as parents, feel inadequate and guilty. In my own life, I have chosen to define happiness as a baseline sense of contentment, an ability to handle the ups and downs of life, and an appreciation of moments of joy.

So, how can you support your family –and yourself — to develop the habits that lead to happiness? The following is a list of my personal hit parade of happiness skills (or as my kids might say, my “hot take”) :

1) Focus On the Basics

Without the non-negotiable basic requirements of life like food and sleep, no human can build a reliable association with happiness. In fact, in 2017 researchers at the University of Melbourne conducted a Happiness Survey with 47,000 Australian children. It found that sleep was the biggest indicator of happiness—getting enough sleep made children twice as likely to report feeling happy most of the time.

  • Make bedtime as early as possible from the start. You can always make bedtime later as your kids get older but you can rarely convince children to go to bed earlier.
  • Make sure that there is always at least a half hour buffer before bed for quiet, unplugged time. Progressive muscle relaxation and guided imagery stories are really helpful with young children.
  • Make breakfast mandatory even if it includes foods that are not traditionally thought of as a morning meal.
  • Choose at least one night a week for a slower paced, sit down family meal.

2) An Emotional Repertoire

Emotional regulation is vital to a sense of well being. Some children are naturally more inclined to efficiently and quickly metabolize difficult emotions, while others need to be taught explicit skills to do so. Children whose temperament appears to be more pessimistic than their peers might need to be taught the skills necessary to weather tough emotions. But, the less easily soothed child has the same capacity to reach their optimal level of happiness as the child who is easier to soothe. It is helpful to all children if their parents strive to embrace a full range of emotions. Do not fear your child’s feelings of sadness, disappointment, anger, frustration, and shame. They are potentially important signals that something needs our attention. We want to teach our children that they can handle the more difficult emotions in order to appreciate the positive ones.

  • Model healthy ways to cope with negative emotions. Speak out loud when you are frustrated and show your children novel ways to cope. For example, if your kids are asking you to solve a problem and are all speaking at once say “guys, my feelings are getting really big and my brain is getting overheated. I am going to take a quick break and splash some cold water on my face and I will be back in a second.”
  • Have a vast and varied feelings repertoire. Labeling emotions is the first step to dealing with them. Use resources like Diane Alber’s “A Little Spot” books, activities and toys to talk about emotions in a non-threatening way. Let your children absorb the information organically and label emotions when they are not in the midst of a meltdown.
  • My biggest pet peeve is when I hear adults ask kids to “use your words” in the heat of an emotional moment. If you are pretty sure that you and your child share a common feelings vocabulary, it is most helpful to label feelings for them when they are in the midst of a big emotional moment. This takes a lot of pressure off and helps your child to feel understood. If you have picked the wrong emotion, they will tell you.

3) Do Not Confuse Achievement With Happiness

Yale Professor, Laurie Santos has studied happiness in her students and her research suggests that “as high school GPA goes up, your overall well-being goes down.”Angela Duckworth wrote the book Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance and is the founder of the Character Lab at The University of Pennsylvania. (TMI, she also happens to be my psychology geek professional crush). She and Adam Grant, a psychologist, author, podcaster, and professor at The Wharton School of Business have suggested that grit is a result of doing things that align with your goals and values. Sticking with something that has meaning to you is more effective than forcing yourself to do something you do not like. Of course, sometimes in the real world, this is not always possible, but we can encourage our children to be cognizant of how they spend their time.

  • Your Kids’ Activities Are Less Important than You Think. The specific activity your child decides to do is not as important as how it fits into their goals and values.
  • Many of us force our children to stick with an activity, even if they are unhappy. Unless your child is a serial quitter, it is ok to ask them if they would like to try a new activity once a class or season is over. For example, Adam Grant has suggested that if your child has tried the violin and really hates it, ask him/her/them to explore other forms of creative expression. In this case, it is the goal and value of creative expression that should be our focus. If your family value is physical activity, let your child find a way of moving their body that works for them.
  • Comparison and Perfectionism are major detractors of our happiness. Detach from the variables of success that are not in your control and de-emphasize your attachment to results. For instance, if your child loves to perform and sing, it is beyond our control to influence the way a director or voice coach reacts to your child, but you and your child can control the amount of effort and time spent rehearsing a particular song.
  • If you truly want your kids to be happy, be mindful of how you speak to them about their own performance or about the accomplishments of other kids their age. How many times have you said as a parent, “I just want my kids to be happy and healthy” and then praised their friend for “making the A team” or being accepted to a prestigious college? (I, for one, cringe at the number of times I have done this one!)
  • Children should engage in activities that stretch them and high expectations are more than fine as long as they are relative to your child’s unique abilities.
  • Children should be praised for real accomplishments (verbal praise and a hug will do). If your child sat on the bench during a soccer game, don’t praise their skill or performance. Children internally know when adults are being inauthentic. You can, however, let them know that you are proud of them for being patient and for cheering their teammates on.

4) Gratitude and Mindfulness

I know, I know, you probably do not need to read more on this topic. Bottom line, feeling grateful and using mindfulness to slow things down truly changes brain structure and chemistry. Make these practices as easy and convenient as possible for your busy family.

  • Put a white board on the back of a door and every time you think of something to be grateful for or you feel a positive emotion, write it down. Put it at kid level so everyone can add to it.
  • Have your child tell you three things that they were happy or proud about as you put them to bed.
  • Make your walks or drives to school “mindful”. Use the skill of “five, four, three, two, one” on your way to school. This means notice five things you see, four things you hear, three things you touch, two things you smell, and one thing you taste. You can also make eating more “mindful” by using the same strategy at a family meal.

5) Be Social

It turns out that the most influential factor of happiness is having meaningful relationships. The quality of connections being more important than the quantity. Being with other people will pretty much always make us feel better.

  • Support the narrative that your child is well liked. Most of the time, when social situations do not go well for our children, variables other than our children’s personality are the culprit.
  • Having a positive belief in yourself as a social being will positively impact the way your child carries herself in social situations.
  • Practice taking other’s perspectives. Empathy represents a very sophisticated level of human development and we do not want to give our kids the impression that they can read others’ minds (that leads to thinking mistakes which can harm our mood and sense of self). But, we do want to encourage our kids to be curious about how other people might feel in a certain situation. This prosocial skill will help your child be more flexible in relationships.
  • Children’s literature has started to do a good job helping children build their social acumen. Like Ability, by Lori Gets and Mitch Prinstein (12 yrs and above), How to Master Your Social Power in Middle School by Bonnie Zucker and DeAndre Hodge (11 to 14 years), and Better Together by Chloe Douglass (4-8 years) are examples of books that teach our kids prosocial behaviors.

6) Volunteer/Do Nice Things For Others

Nothing is a guarantee, but a surefire way to feel happier is when we do nice things for others. This can be big or small. Calling grandma to see how her day went, smiling and saying hi to the person working at the checkout line, or bringing an extra sticker to school for your friend are all respectable ways to be nice to others. And perhaps your family wants to do something a little bigger by volunteering.

  • Children as young as pre-school can benefit from doing projects for others. Selecting old books to put in the library donation box is powerful in an age appropriate way.
  • In New York, there is an amazing website called Volunteer New York. Parents can fill out an online form with their child’s ages and the category of types of volunteer projects which will result in a list of applicable programs. Most communities will have similar volunteer clearing houses.

I have a dirty little secret, psychologists are not perfect parents or people, and I doubt that there is evidence that we are happier than the general public. I have often caught myself disregarding the research and questioning how my children could be unhappy, given the quality of their external lives. During really frustrating moments with my kids, I am ashamed to say that my internal voice shouted, “what could you possibly be unhappy about?”I was ignoring the evidence that external circumstances are sorely lacking as building blocks for happiness. It’s not easy raising children and I am not a perfect parent (the fact that I felt compelled to use the term “hot take” is proof of my vast shortcomings-sorry kids!).

You might not be surprised to read that I am one of those people who have the urge to use a ton of exclamation points in my texts and emails (kind of goes along with the rainbow infatuation). This tendency actually works to devalue my more serious points and dulls the excitement of the moments that really deserve the positive attention. Likewise, in life there is no one who believes that children or adults should feel happy all of the time. The point is to punctuate everyday experiences with moments of joy, excitement, and contentment and to string these moments together to create a meaningful life. The problem with social media is that it gives us the impression that all moments deserve an exclamation point. Let’s be honest, most of life can feel mundane and tedious. For busy minded people there are few moments of rest and clarity. Letting go of the guilt associated with the “blah”ness of our ordinary lives creates space for your brain to recognize moments of true joy. Feeling inadequate as a human being or as parents is like carrying a backpack of bricks on our backs. Life is fuller and more sustainable when we understand that happiness is not supposed to be the constant normal state of affairs for humans. Rather, happiness is an accumulation of meaningful emotional reactions across time. I am happy (I mean it!) to report that change is possible and I am living proof that it is never too late to work on our capacity to feel contentment and joy.