We parents love it when our children are happy. Their smiles and laughter bring us joy, and we feel sad when they are upset. We have a strong urge to protect our children from uncomfortable feelings. I see it all of the time. It starts when your little child falls down and you say, “You are ok! See you’re not even bleeding.” Or maybe a toy gets broken and you say, “Don’t cry. It’s just a toy. We can get you another one.” We have the urge to fix or stop those uncomfortable feelings. But can I ask you; can we really make sure our children are happy all of the time? Even more than that, do we really have to?
You see, when we get into the habit of stopping or fixing every uncomfortable feeling our children have we, begin to teach them that they are not ok unless they are feeling happy. We miss the mark on showing them what TRUE happiness is all about. Studies done on adults who are considered “happy” show that true happiness is about resiliency and the ability to be content even when things are not perfect. Because the reality is we live in a flawed and imperfect world. Bad things WILL happen. There will be things that you cannot fix and cannot protect your children from.
Another problem we run into by constantly fixing unhappiness is that we teach our children that they are not responsible for their own happiness! They will blame you, others, and the world when they are not happy, and they will feel powerless to change it or face it themselves. It is hard to feel content or resilient when you feel helpless.
So what do our children really need from us when they are unhappy? More than anything else, they need empathy and support. They need a hug. They need to hear that we see they are upset and that can be hard. Teach them to pray. Help them brainstorm about solutions. Help them decide what they need to do to either fix the situation for THEMSELVES or what will help them cope. Sometimes they will require your help, and that is ok. But only provide just enough to put them on the path to helping themselves. Do NOT tell them life is hard so suck it up. Instead, if you can give them empathy and support, they will see that, yes, life can be hard and sad, but I am loved and I can be ok. Then you will be helping your child learn contentment and resiliency, which will set them on the path of true happiness.