5 Things I Want to Teach My Kids About Happiness

Children and Happiness - Barbara O'Reilly

It seems strange to teach children about happiness; they get happiness right? My son belly laughs when he tries to put his shoe on his hand or when I nibble on his leg. A bubble blower or an ice cream will make my daughter lose her mind. So what could I possibly have to teach them about being happy?

The reality is that kids feel things big. Anger brings rage, sadness evokes snotty sobs and excitement is loud. Like tiny drunk adults they yell and cry and dance and laugh and do very little in between. These emotions are epic and dramatic, but for the most part they are simple. The complexities will come, man will they come, and when they do; seeing the big picture becomes so much harder.

It’s not my job as a parent to smooth the word out for my children, to make sure that they never experience any emotion other than happiness. But for me, teaching my kids to find happiness wherever they can is what I owe them, considering how much of it they have brought to me. This is what I want them to know.

1. People who are the happiest are very rarely the people who have the most. Happiness comes from sun on your skin, licking the wooden spoon, swimming in salt water and drawing pictures for someone you love. Toys and doughnuts will never make you happy. They may please you (and there is nothing wrong with that) but you can’t rely on pleasure. Pleasure actually gets harder to feel with the more stuff you have. Happy is simple, no matter what you do or don’t have you can always find it.

2. Being grateful is the easiest way to turn your mood around. This is not to be confused for the you-have-clothes-and-toys-and-food-so-smile attitude. Nope, this is simply, hey babe, you’re in a funk. Want to talk about it? Great! Now let’s think about five things that make you feel lucky, happy or proud. Want to draw a picture of them? Awesome. Shall we send this picture to Grandma? Let’s do it.

3. What you can control is your actions and reactions, that’s it. The absolute only thing in this world that you can control is yourself. And if you treat someone badly it’s you who is going to suffer from your own regret. Hold your head high, do the right thing and you can always be proud. Admit when you’re wrong, shut up when you’re right and take the high road right out of any toxic situation.

4. Being cranky about cleaning your room, brushing your teeth and doing your homework is pointless. Some things have to be done so you may as well find a way to enjoy it. If the process doesn’t excite you, focus on the outcome. Having a tidy room to play in feels good, right? Creating a really beautiful piece of work makes you proud, yes? Feeling as if you have achieved something is the best, independence is addictive and all this stuff will make you truly happy.

5. You can absolutely choose to be happy. If you enjoy the little things, practise gratitude, behave with integrity and embrace the process you will be happy. This day will never happen again and it’s up to you how you spend it. So are you going to choose sulking or are you going to choose fun?

What happiness secrets do you pass on to your kids?

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