Want to know one of the biggest predictors of success in life? A happy childhood. Of course, for parents making it happen means doing all the common-sense things, such as proving adequate food, shelter and as much love and emotional support as possible. But recent studies have found there are a few other simple ways parents can be helping their kids have an edge in life.
Give kids undivided attention for 5-15 minutes a pop
Zoe Williams, in a witty piece for The Guardian, quotes productivity and organization guru Julie Morgenstern who cites eight years of research showing that short bursts of parental attention are best for making kids feel loved and secure. "When they wake up, when they come home from school, when they are going to bed, when they get back from work (turns out this is true of adults as well as children): stop what you are doing and concentrate on them, then leave them alone to do what they want," Williams writes. "Finally, I could unleash my ceaseless questions -- "How was your day?" "Who was annoying?" "Did anything happen that would amuse me?" "What did you have for lunch?" -- and nobody minded because they knew it was time-limited and, at some point, there would be no followup."
Travel with your kids internationally
Researchers have found that being exposed to foreign travel is associated with an increased ability to handle one's self well in diverse situations. And if you can bring your kids to more countries or find ways to immerse them deeply in a culture, even better. "By spending time in unfamiliar towns, cities, or countries, you become tolerant and even accepting of your own discomfort and more confident in your ability to navigate ambiguous situations," writes Todd Kashdan, psychology professor and a senior scientist at the Center for the Advancement of Well-Being at George Mason University, for Harvard Business Review.
Make sure your kids get enough sleep
A study recently published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine electronically surveyed 177,091 Greek children between eight and 17 years old. Researchers asked about their dietary habits, typical weekday and weekend sleeping hours, amount of physical activity, and the kinds of things they did while sitting around. The kids who didn't get enough sleep--less than nine hours a day for children and less than eight for teens--were more likely to skip breakfast, eat more fast and sweet food, spend more time in front of a screen and be overweight. If getting kids to turn-in is a battle at your house, consider mandating the handing over of phones and tablets and powering down of TVs and video games at a set time every night. And make sure everyone has an old-fashioned alarm clock in the bedroom so "I need my phone to wake up" becomes an invalid argument.