5 ways to be a happier parent

Rina Mae Acosta and Michele Hutchison, authors of The Happiest Kids in the World, share their top five tips for how to master a happy home life.

Modern parenting is riddled with sleep deprivation, stress, servitude, and overall exhaustion. At least we thought so until we moved to Holland - for it seems the Dutch may have actually figured it all out. In the Netherlands, happy parents make happy kids.

Dutch children are the happiest in the world, according to research from UNICEF. (How did British kids rate? Right at the bottom of the chart, unfortunately.)

So how do those Dutch parents do it? Why not take a leaf of out their book and give yourself a happier new year?

Here are five basics:

1. Keep cool, calm and collected

Perhaps the most distinguishing feature of Dutch parents is just how relaxed they seem to us expats. Four-year-old not reading yet? No problem. Nine-year-old arranged a spontaneous play date after school at a classmates house? How wonderful. Just be back in time for dinner. Twelve -year-old biking to football training? More time for Netflix and chill. Dutch parents take the long view and don’t fret about every tiny step their children do or don’t take. They also encourage independence and try to be realistic about risks.

2. Be economically pragmatic

It's so liberating not to be attached to brand names, designer labels and the latest trends. Having children is expensive wherever you live, but the Dutch take a practical approach. Hand-me-downs are welcome, online community marketplaces and secondhand stores are go-to places. Given that their children play outside a lot, it’s better to have clothing that is comfortable and can get muddy. Toys are exchanged each year at a public street market and presents are always modestly-priced.

3. Eat meals together as a family, especially breakfast

Start the day strong and eat breakfast together as a family. Keep it simple and as healthy as possible - cereals, breads, cheeses, and fruit. The main focus should be talking to each other as a family and keeping everyone updated. Don’t stress if your children want hagelslag - chocolate ants  - on their toast. Prepare easy meals for the week in advance and make a meal of leftovers and scraps on Fridays.

4. Go ride a bike (or walk)

Who can say that they are actually grumpy while biking? While sometimes the weather can be outright discouraging, the moment you get on a bike, chances are you'll have a smile on your face. Ride your bike as much as possible and get your kids to ride theirs too, whatever the weather. Though they (and you!) might grumble about it at first, it will become second nature after a while.

5. Create a village - outsource and delegate

Dutch parents, especially mums, are masters of delegating and outsourcing childcare. They know the importance of having a "village" to raise their children. Childcare is typically a combination of crèche, grandparents, and the occasional neighborhood babysitter. Dutch parents also recognize the importance of penciling in time for themselves - whether it's for going to the gym or having coffee with friends.

For more tips, head to www.findingdutchland.com

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Find out more about the authors

The Happiest Kids in the World

Rina Mae Acosta (and others)

Why do:
· Dutch babies seem so content, and sleep so well?
· Dutch parents let their kids play outside on their own?
· The Dutch trust their children to bike to school?
· Dutch schools not set homework for the under-tens?
· Dutch teenagers not rebel?
· What is the secret of bringing up the happiest kids in the world?

In a recent UNICEF study of child well-being, Dutch children came out on top as the happiest all-round. Rina Mae Acosta and Michele Hutchison, both married to Dutchmen and bringing up their kids in Holland, examine the unique environment that enables the Dutch to turn out such contented, well-adjusted and healthy babies, children and teens.
Read this book if you want to find out what lessons you can learn from Dutch parents, to ensure your kids turn out happy!

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