Every parent wants to see their children happy and fulfilled. We often turn to toys, sweets, and treats to provide moments of joy. However, it's important to recognize that these external pleasures, while enjoyable, offer only short-lived happiness. It's not that children are ungrateful or unsatisfied; it's that their contentment is not solely dependent on material possessions. Let's delve deeper into this concept.

Think about the last time you indulged your child with a new Lego set, a Barbie doll, or a trip to the ice cream parlor. While these occasional treats can bring a temporary smile to their faces, the euphoria often fades rather quickly. This effect is amplified when such gifts are given amidst a stressful home environment, possibly triggered by health issues, financial concerns, or other hardships.

This leads us to a fundamental insight: the most meaningful gifts you can provide your child cannot be found on the shelves of a toy store.

The greatest gift you can bestow upon your child is the gift of your best self.

Occasional toys and treats undoubtedly have their place, but they must be complemented by three core principles that define a well-rounded parent.

Becoming the best version of yourself as a parent grants your children an invaluable and enduring present – genuine, long-term happiness, joy, and stability. The journey to realizing this potential is distilled into three primary categories. This holiday season, consider offering your children these gifts, the keys to fostering authentic, lifelong fulfillment and happiness.

1) Your Own Financial Health

Financial health is an often overlooked but essential gift that parents can bestow upon their children. The financial well-being of a family plays a pivotal role in shaping a child's life and prospects. It not only determines the quality of their everyday life but also influences their access to education, opportunities, and a secure environment. This gift goes beyond material possessions; it is an investment in their long-term well-being.

A financially stable home provides children with a profound sense of security and comfort. It shields them from the anxieties that often accompany financial instability, allowing them to focus on personal growth and development. Moreover, this stability eliminates a significant source of stress and anxiety that can permeate the household atmosphere, creating a more positive and nurturing environment for the entire family. It is a gift that fosters harmony and resilience, enabling children to face life's challenges with a sense of stability and optimism.

Furthermore, it instills valuable lessons about responsible financial management, which can become the building blocks of their own financial future. When parents model sound financial practices, such as budgeting, saving, and investing, they equip their children with the knowledge and skills needed to navigate the complexities of the modern financial world. This financial gift not only eases daily stresses but also imparts life skills that contribute to their long-term well-being. It is a legacy that fosters a positive home atmosphere, nurturing personal growth and ensuring that children are well-prepared for their financial journey ahead.

2) Your Own Physical Health

It goes without saying that taking care of your physical health, through wise food choices and regular exercise, is a great gift to oneself.

But have you thought about how your good health is a gift to your kids? Consider the following:

  • Fitness and good health usually results in high energy, which is invaluable when raising children, especially when they are very young. Don’t you want to play, run around, swim, and go on bike rides with them? (Trust me, you do)
  • Your choices are a model for your children. Make good choices for yourself, and your kids will (hopefully) follow your lead.
  • Your continued good health will help to alleviate your children’s worry as you age.
  • If you take care of your health, you will be able to play, run around, swim, and bike with your grandchildren! And your adult children will love you for it.

3) Your Own Happiness

Remember when I said that parents, especially moms, think that they have to make constant sacrifices and give to their child around the clock and not be selfish?

That was me. I was one of those moms.

Until one day when my son was about six months old, and I heard a psychologist on a talk show say the most surprising, profound thing I have ever heard about parenthood:

“The greatest gift a mother can give her child is her own happiness.”

It changed everything.

It’s not that I didn’t continue to give my son (and my daughter, once she arrived) my time, my love, my energy, my care, my attention, not to mention the window seat.

I did, and I do, and I always will.

But I give those things to myself too. (Except the window seat because there’s only one of those).

I take care of myself. I pursue my interests and my dreams. I do what I need to do to keep myself happy.

You should too.

Your kids will notice. They will benefit from your good mood and stability, and from the energy you derive from your sense of personal accomplishment.

You will be setting a good example for them by filling your own cup.

They will thank you for it. (Well, actually, they probably won’t. Which is all the more reason to do it.)

This article was originally published at Medium. Edited and republished with permission from the author.