Optimistic, even in the face of reality. That has been my motto for many years.
Back before I was a parent and I worked full time as a therapist I had a button stuck in the bulletin board above my desk that had that saying on it. I had bought it from the Northern Sun Catalog, way before Internet shopping existed, probably the early 1990s. It was a saying that really meant something to me, as I had a very stressful job working with people who needed me to be positive, since their lives were so challenging. It was a message I tried to convey to my clients, as I truly believe that optimistic people are happier people, even in stressful times.
As a participant in BlogHer’s “Life Well Lived” series I have the opportunity to write about my thoughts regarding the current posted question about “Getting Happy." This week’s question wonders about how we teach the children in our lives about happiness. Since my kid is stuck with a therapist for a mother, there is a great deal of discussion going on here about feelings. I help him identify his feelings and we discuss them on a four year old level. For the most part, he is a very happy kid. He does get angry at times and I speak with him about his anger and appropriate ways to express it. Just as it is important to talk about and model difficult feelings, it is also important to model happiness and remark on it just as often. One of the ways I model happiness for my son is by being optimistic.
Let’s face it, being a parent is challenging in this day and age. There are many stressors out there. I feel lucky that overall our lives are blessed, but that doesn’t mean stress is absent either. So, I’m not always feeling completely happy, but I focus on being optimistic. The difference to me is that just because I feel unhappy about a particular situation, I have hope that it will get better soon. I work hard to show my son that by having a positive outlook means that the challenges in my life can be overcome.
Does my four year old get optimism yet? I would say yes! He is optimistic in his personality. He doesn’t see limitations to his world. While at times that belief that he can do anything can get him in trouble, it is a belief that I do not want to crush, just shape a bit. I encourage his optimistic personality by listening to him, letting him learn consequences, and helping him process his thoughts and feelings when needed. I model being optimistic by carefully choosing the language I use around him and not being overly critical of myself or him. Constructive criticism for oneself can be useful, but too often I notice that people are mean, and not constructive with their opinions or criticism, especially about themselves. Being a happy person means keeping the negativity in check and being accepting of our self in life.
Another way I teach my son happiness? Laughing! We laugh all the time….by being silly, joking, tickling, singing funny songs and reading stories with silly voices. Hearing my son’s belly laugh makes me happy! It is the best sound in life!
How do you teach the children in your life happiness? Please share your best tools and tips in the comments below and be sure to visit BlogHer.com to contribute your ideas to this week's discussion! Also check out the current Sweepstakes on BlogHer for a Kindle Fire!