Children understand being happy without putting it in words. As parents we can learn and relearn about being happy by observing them, listening to them, and sharing time with them
Ways Children Teach Us About Happiness
1. Children are patient.
This might sound surprising when things don’t go their way, but watch a six-year-old or ten-year-old play with Legos. An hour or more of patient concentration on the tiniest little pieces of their favorite little blocks is all absorbing. Sometimes they patiently follow all the pictures that detail the construction and other times they make their own imaginative creation.
They are demonstrating the joy of concentrating on something they love doing. They are happy. We need to follow their example and stay passionate about our interests.
2. Children are vibrant.
Watch children on a playground climbing a jungle gym with ceaseless energy. They are laughing and swinging and chasing and then suddenly studying a bug on the ground. Such vibrancy reveals happiness. We can learn from this lighthearted play. It’s an invigorating way every parent needs to feel now and then.
3. Children are attentive listeners.
Children may not like being told what to do when they have a stressful day, but read them a story and you see your attentive listener. Or, tell them about your trip to the market or your day at work, and their eyes will be on yours. The joy of listening to another person should be part of every parent’s day. It helps you feel close and warm, relating to another.
4. Children give affection.
Out of nowhere your child gives you a kiss or a hug. It feels so good you don’t want to let go. We get so busy, we can forget the need for touch. Children remind us when they take our hand and it warms our heart.
5. Children love nature.
Children are drawn to animals, large and small. It doesn’t mean you have to have a pet in your home because animals are all around us. Children point out a pigeon and a cardinal. They delight at following an ant around. They revel in the sunshine and like running in puddles in the rain. They remind us of the beauty just waiting to be seen that can calm us down when we’re too inward and forget how a beautiful sky can make us feel happy.
7. Children love us.
There’s nothing like the gaze of an infant, the sentence “Mommy I love you,” and the snuggle on the couch. In the hurried lives we live, we need to enjoy the happiness of being loved. It’s there for the taking. Receive it well.
Laurie Hollman is a psychoanalyst with an upcoming book, Unlocking Parental Intelligence: Finding Meaning in Your Child’s Behavior, to be released in October, 2015.