Many parents say they “only want my children to be happy”—and use that as an excuse to sabotage their children’s happiness by:
- Spending so much time working to provide the best material things that their children rarely see them (and almost never see them in a good mood);
- Constantly pressuring their children to “succeed” by always getting everything 100 percent perfect; or
- “Protecting” their children to the point the kids feel they’re living in prison—or start taking it for granted that any disappointment or stress is intolerable.
True happiness doesn’t depend on things always going “easy”—if anything, it’s the satisfaction of conquering a tough challenge that nurtures happiness. That, and appreciating what we already have, and spending meaningful time with those we love. If you truly want happiness for your children (not to mention yourself and the other adults in your household), forget about trying to match the pictures painted by social media, and start focusing on the right things.
- Make “time with family” a #1 priority in your weekly—and daily—schedule. If your children are in art clubs or on sports teams, attend their events. If you can’t coordinate schedules to eat dinner together every evening, get up early enough to share breakfast. And if it’s truly impossible to be home to tuck your children into bed, take five minutes to give them a video call.
- Remember that “present in body” isn’t necessarily the same as “present enough to say ‘with love.’” Your being physically there may do little good if you snap, “Don’t interrupt me”; try to listen simultaneously to your children and your smartphone; or rush the kids around as though your schedule were all that really mattered. (Note for parents who work at home while your kids are there, especially when virtual meetings are part of your work: agree on set hours when you’ll be available to the kids and when you’re to be interrupted only for dire emergencies—then keep the first slot as inviolable as the second.)
- Leave plenty of time in your own schedule to rest and just have fun. Whether you do it with the kids or separately, it’ll help you stay healthy and in a better mood for the rest of your household.
- Know and respect everyone’s interests, wishes, and personalities. Never make a child feel there’s something “wrong” with him for being the only one who hates football games. If one child has passions shared by no one else in the family, help him find other outlets to pursue those passions; and remember to listen attentively when he talks about them.
- Make laughter a regular part of your household: share the funny things that happened at work and school, let the kids tell their best jokes, make a family game or exercise session out of laughing just for the sake of laughing. Don’t forget to laugh (and invite others to laugh along) at your own stumbles and foibles, either. The happiest people are those who can enjoy being imperfect!
Blessings to parents and children of all ages!