Time and again when I ask parents what they wish for their children they respond with “I just want them to be happy”. But how exactly does one do that? What exactly is happiness?
The truth is that happiness is a way of being but not a constant. To be happy you must also experience sadness and sometimes as parents we have a hard time tolerating that fact. In any case lets take some time and see what the research tell us about how to be happy.
The best news of all is that if we can know for ourselves these choices, thoughts and surroundings then we can share that knowledge with our children. Then, in turn, your child will know happiness.
What is riskier than taking on the responsibility of maintaining another human being alive? What is more uncomfortable than attempting to function in the world with 4 or less hours of sleep? What generates a worse feeling than hearing our newborn cry?
The primary finding of happiness research is that those who are happy take risks, allow themselves discomfort and feel any and all emotion. So, applied to parenting, the mere fact of having an infant should make you happy.
The happiness research also tells us that when we celebrate our friend’s, lover’s and children’s accomplishments, we increase our feelings of happiness. Most of us spend our days telling our children how well they did or how proud we are they got through that FSA.
Just like taking the risk of becoming a parent can bring happiness, so can your praise and pride in your child bring happiness. The child further benefits from the positive reinforcement, which more times than not works best when attempting to parent away difficult behavior.
Another key researchers found to being happy is to avoid getting stuck on the details and striving too hard for perfection. I, for one, am guilty of seeing so much detail in my day-to-day that at times it causes frustration rather than what I like to consider effective mobility. The researchers make a nice point about how this attention to detail sometimes goes awry.
They describe being upset with your partner and being able to see the tiny movements in their face or their body that then we describe as being “wrong or judgmental” because in the moment we are upset. However, when all things are copacetic we ignore a slight or phrase under the guise that it was just for the moment.
Happy is the feeling.
The one we experience when we smile, laugh, and spend time doing something we enjoy. Yet happiness is less tangible. Happiness is a state of being. It is a state based on our choices, thoughts, and surroundings. The best news of all is that if we can know for ourselves these choices, thoughts and surroundings then we can share that knowledge with our children. Then, in turn, your child will know happiness.
Lina Acosta Sandaal, MA, LMFT is a psychotherapist, child development expert and founder of Stop Parenting Alone, a parenting and therapy center in Miami, FL. She is the parenting expert on Telemundo’s national morning show Un Nuevo Dia, a co-chair from the Florida Maternal Mental Health Collaborative and a consultant for MomsRising, a national organization advocating for children and family rights