Teaching Our Kids to be Happy
Three practical ways to show your children how to choose happiness this Sukkot.
We all want to be happy and more than anything else, we want our kids to be happy.
We dream of our children's success. We dream of top scores on scholastic tests, social success with hip friends and parties, and fame-generating hobbies. But underneath it all, we know that if our kids won't be happy, then their successes will be worthless. If they're not happy, they won't enjoy or appreciate anything that they've accomplished.
The holiday of Sukkot gives us the opportunity to teach our children how to be happy. After all, it’s a mitzvah to "rejoice during your holiday."
So what’s the secret to happiness?
Happiness is not an elusive pursuit. By actually commanding us to be happy, God is teaching us that happiness is something that we can generate on our own. It’s a choice we can make.
Happiness is a skill. Like any skill, the more we practice happiness, the better we get at it. Obviously, people who are born with an upbeat personality will have an easier time being happy, but anyone who puts their mind to it, no matter how innately pessimistic, can improve their happiness skills.
So we can teach out kids happiness skills.
Happiness skills aren't taught in a classroom. They're taught in real-life. And the primary way to teach your children how to be happy is by showing them your own happiness skills and how you apply them.
Your happiness is largely dependent on how you react to the things that happen to you in life. Happiness has nothing to do with what happens – only about how you respond to what happens.
If you get upset at the things that happen to you, if you get angry at the people who irritate you, if you are jealous of people who have more things than you – then you live your life irritated, angry, jealous and unhappy.
But if you accept what happens to you during your life, if you choose to be forgiving, patient and tolerant of the people in your life, if you appreciate that you have everything that you need in your life then you're choosing happiness.
There are many approaches that can help us react appropriately to the events that happen in our lives. Here are three suggestions:
The first one is to remember that God is in charge. Since God is good, everything that happens to me is somehow for my good – even if I don't perceive the goodness right now.
The second is that God gives me everything I need. So if I don’t have something, I don't need it. This couples with the converse that if God gave me something, a particular challenge, then there is a reason why I need it.
The third approach is more practical: I don't want to be that type of person. I don't want to be that person who is catty with her co-workers, angry with her neighbors, on-the-brink-of divorce with her husband, and estranged from her kids. So I will do whatever I can to regulate my reactions and be happy so that I can foster positive relationships.
It takes about thirty seconds to read through these mindsets, but it's a lifelong task to apply them or any other mindset that will strengthen your happiness skills. But it's certainly worth it. They are the keys to being happy.
This Sukkot make a point to talk about these concepts with your children as you apply them. Tell your kids, "I'm upset about the fact that I was fired, but I know that God has a good plan for me." Tell them, "I see that the neighbor blocked our driveway again. Oh well, it's not worthwhile to get upset about a parking spot." Share with them, "I'm disappointed that I was passed up for the promotion, I'm going to try to be happy for my co-worker who was promoted."
As you work on your happiness skills, you'll teach your kids how to be happy and having happy kids will make you very happy!
Wishing everyone a very happy Sukkot!
Wishing you all a very happy Sukkot holiday!