Our children’s happiness is on the decline a report on the BBC says this morning.
What’s even more significant is that it seems to be most dramatic between the ages of eight and fifteen.
‘Children said that having loving and supportive family relationships was important. Having a reasonable level of choice and autonomy – particularly for teenagers – was vital’ the article says.
I don’t see our older children getting much choice or autonomy, not those who are in school anyway.
What would change that? What would make them feel happier?
It’s not complicated. We just have to act as if they matter.
All the adults around them have to act as if they matter – school adults as well.
We have to show them that their wishes and preferences matter. That their opinions and needs are important. We have to listen. Be pro-active about their wishes rather than reactive. And have integrity in our choices for them. And we have to do all that even if it’s difficult, even if we’d rather not bother, even if bothering disrupts our adult lives and agendas.
That is the only way to show them they matter and make them feel happier. By making them feel:
– Respected (respect is part of love)
– Secure and give them a sense of stability
– Cared for
– That we have consistency in our morals, values and honesty, which actually matters to them but we often overlook that fact – especially if we can’t be bothered.
It’s easier to bully kids into institutional submission and not listen to their likes and dislikes, or what indignities they might have to endure. To take away their right to choice – it’s much easier for us like that.
But that’s what is making their happiness decline.
We need to smarten up our act as parents or teachers, for it is how we act that makes the difference.
We need to think independently about what our kids need – and kids have needs right into adulthood.
We have to set our own honest standards about what’s acceptable and act accordingly and consistently.
We have to behave in ways that gives them something to look up to and believe in. We have to practise respect at all times.
And I would also say through my own experience that this matters more and more the older they get. You can’t buy them happy with flash stuff. You can only provide a model of behaviour that will make them feel loved and safe and of importance.
This is what will make them feel happy – whatever age they are.