How To Raise Happy Kids And Stay Sane9:48 AM
People debate whether real happiness is attainable. Figuring out how to be happy in your life while raising happy kids doesn't need to sound or be impossible.
Reframing The Burden Of Happiness
The concept of finding true happiness and maintaining it fluctuates in popularity. On VProud there's an amazing video of Jennifer Senior's happiness TED Talk where she says that happiness while parenting is a very high bar to set for ourselves. Mother, author, and therapist Katie Hurley reflects on Jennifer's TED Talk from the perspective that although being a happy parent while raising a happy kid can, indeed, be taxing, it's not a burden, it's a gift. We found Katie's focus on happy parenting and happy kids to be refreshing and the permission she gives her readers to focus on both to be reassuring. There's a reason why Katie's advice is so well respected in the parenting community—it's unique, down to earth, and easily implementable. Take a look at what Katie has to say about raising happy kids and being a happy parent and see if her perspective fits in with—or shifts—yours.
—The VProud Team
Happiness Is A Gift, Not A Burden
Like many parents, I found myself nodding my head in ferocious agreement with the wise words of Jennifer Senior in her popular Ted Talk, “For parents, happiness is a very high bar.” The world has changed. Parents do face new and different stressors. We are navigating new territory and we can’t be certain that what we teach our kids today will actually apply tomorrow.
In my practice, I see firsthand that parents are under stress right now. So are kids. Ten years ago my youngest clients came to me for help with social skills; today the little ones struggle with anxiety. We can point fingers and place blame and look to the past to try figure out where it all went so very wrong, but that won’t really get us anywhere. We have to deal with the here and now.
I tend to agree with Senior that we are improvising these days. The traditional roles of parents no longer hold up. We are doing things differently than our parents and grandparents did, and there isn’t an easy button for parenting.
But we disagree on one point. Senior describes a child’s happiness as, “a very unfair burden to place on a parent,” and, “an even more unfair burden to place on a kid.” A burden. A heavy load to carry. When did we lose sight of what happiness truly means?
To consider happiness a burden is to cast something wonderful in a very unfair light. Can parents hand children happiness on a silver platter and send them into the world smiling ear to ear? Of course not. Happiness isn’t something we can bestow upon our children, but we can empower our kids to find happiness.
When we take the time to teach our kids to identify, understand and regulate their emotions, for example, we empower them to figure out how to cope with the ups and downs that will occur throughout life. We show them that even if they endure something hard, they can still find their way to a happy ending.
When we teach our kids the meaning of empathy and how kindness and caring impacts other people, we empower them to think about others before they act. We show them that kindness heals and that it feels good to be a healer – to be a change maker in this world.
When we work through stress and anxiety with our children instead of leaving them to shake it off and figure it out, we teach them that they are never truly alone in this world. We also show them the power of handing someone a lifeline. In doing this, we empower them to turn around and help others in times of need.
When we learn to care for our own souls – to say no to excess stress (your kids don’t really need to play every sport ever and attend every party) and yes to more sleep – we teach our kids to slow down and be grateful for and mindful of each other. When we do this, we show them that we all need to learn how to cope and thrive, even if that means changing the way we do things.
We can’t guarantee happiness for our children, but we can empower them to live happy lives. We can focus on the things that are often forgotten in the race to the finish, like emotional health, empathy and kindness.
Happiness is not a burden. It’s a gift. We will all face stress and adversity in our lives. We will all be forced to work through something we didn’t see coming. We won’t be happy every second of every day, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t have happiness.
When we slow down and rethink happiness, we find that the little things – toddlers chasing butterflies and ice cream cones dripping down little chins on a hot day – add up to great moments of happiness. Those are the memories we make. Those are the images that soothe our souls when the going gets tough. Those are the gifts that keep on giving.
Go ahead, redefine happiness and start collecting memories. Your family will better for it. That much I can promise.
About the author: Katie Hurley, LCSW, is a child and adolescent psychotherapist, parenting expert, and writer. The author of The Happy KidHandbook: How to Raise Joyful Children in a Stressful World, Katie practices psychotherapy in Los Angeles and has extensive training in Play Therapy. She is a freelance writer for online publications, including PBS Parents, EverydayFamily, Momtastic, and The Huffington Post. Katie authors the popular blog, PracticalParenting. You can follow Katie on Twitter and Facebook. Join Katie's honest conversations on VProud.
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|Jennifer Senior: When it comes to parenting, is happiness too high of a bar to set for yourself?|