the glow of happiness

The true measure of success is happiness - yours and your family's.
By Lucille Kemp

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After a year of chasing your tail, it’s time to ponder what you did right and what you might have done differently. I think life starts to get better for most of us when we realise that quality of life does not centre wholly on achieving the dream of a nice home, job title, goal weight or the perfect child … rather, it’s about achieving happiness. And we can be happy without any of the above-mentioned perceived symbols of happiness.
 
As parents, achieving happiness is not only a skill that we must learn and then master to keep moving forward, it’s a responsibility. We owe it to our children because, in their growing years, they will look to us to set the tone for their lives. Glenda Weil and Doro Marden, co-authors of Raise Happy Children, say a large part of a parent’s job is to “delve into the conditions for creating the fertile ground in which happiness can flourish – not the happiness that appears in holiday brochures where the sun is always shining and everyone is smiling, but more where the happiness endures through the ups and downs of real family life.”
 
1. Knowing what makes you smile
Apart from the basic universal human needs – food, shelter, security and love – individual needs develop over time. Allow your children the freedom to explore and try different activities to discover what brings them enjoyment. When they have this focus they will be able to play to their strengths, which will bring them an overall sense of joy.
 
2. Connectedness
Happy children have secure and loving relationships with their parents, get on with other children and have at least one good friend. These relationships deepen and are strengthened through communication. Spend quality time with your child, encourage them to invite friends over and create opportunities for laughter, playfulness and show appreciation for all family members’ sense of humour.
 
3. Guidance
Happy children know that they are loved and that their parents are in charge. Children tend to follow their desires the minute they arise, so you will have to teach them patience and delayed gratification. Focus on teaching them that it is possible to wait for things, however, annoying the wait. Teaching them impulse control is crucial as there will be many times that life will call for them to stop and think before acting.
 
4. Doing something well
We all get joy from deeds well done, children included, whether it is completing a difficult jigsaw puzzle or building a tower of bricks. Psychologist Steve Biddulph, author of Raising Boys, emphasises this by saying that a child should be able to cook a family meal by the age of 11. Allow and encourage them to get stuck in and get creative. Provide opportunities to learn new skills and master something appropriate to their age and ability.
 
5. Realness
Don’t get your family trapped in the happiness doctrine – you can’t expect to have fun all the time. Carl Jung once said: “Even a happy life cannot be without a measure of darkness and the word ‘happy’ would lose its meaning were it not balanced by sadness.” Let your child know that you accept their feelings, whether joyful or painful. Acceptance and understanding are invaluable to your child.
 
6. Resilience
This is the ability to rise above challenging circumstances; children who learn to cope with life’s setbacks and disappointments have a head start for happiness. With the proper support, disappointment can strengthen rather than weaken the child. Focus on preparing your child for the bumps in the road as opposed to constantly trying to clear the way for them.
 
7. Optimism
If you find that your child reflects a somewhat half-empty approach to life, know that optimism can be taught. Focus on challenging the view that nothing can be done about a problem by countering “I can’t” with “what’s stopping you?” Recall your child’s past successes and praise their efforts, not just their triumphs.
 
8. Thankfulness
Taking things for granted is the enemy of happiness. Children who feel entitled are less content than those who have an attitude of thankfulness. Teach your child to make gratitude declarations, such as saying three things they are grateful for at bedtime or writing down five things they are thankful for every Sunday.
 
9. Giving
As the saying goes, happiness lies not so much in having but in sharing – children can be taught the joy of giving to others. Encourage them to practise kindness and giving, for example, picking flowers for granny.
 
10. Connecting with nature
From climbing trees to flying kites, there is magic in discovering the outdoors. Focus on showing your children that there is a whole world out there. Share the joy, excitement and mystery of the world we live in with your child regularly.
 
11. Morality and spirituality
A deeper happiness arises when people live in tune with their values and morals. Giving your children a moral dimension can give their lives deeper purpose. Develop rituals such lighting candles for birthdays or quietly gazing at the stars together. Fill your child with the wonder of existence.

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