The future depends on how we parent, so it’s our biggest responsibility. Unfortunately, there’s no manual or required training. Here’s a key though.
An important thing we can do for our kids is to be good to ourselves, to enjoy life, and to be adventurous, positive people – and to show that to them regularly.
If we’re juggling jobs and life, and we’re coming home stressed out, better to go do something relaxing and get rid of the stress first, because our children don’t need to see us worried, irritated or fearful.
We’re not supposed to be slaves to our kids. It’s an out-dated model. We need and deserve a playtime every day, to maintain a healthy attitude. And if we’re out there, enjoying a job, a hobby, a sport, friends, and we’re coming home feeling fulfilled and excited about life, and encouraging excitement in our kids, then we’ve given them something valuable.
Kids need our example.
We’re ushering our children into a world where it seems reasonable to feel fearful about the future. Kindness, dignity and integrity have diminished; violence, poverty and disease are everywhere; the environment is endangered. And it’s easy to believe that, “It’s bad and getting worse.”
Children who live with adults, who focus primarily on negativity and see the world as a frightening place, may end up seeing it the same way, viewing the world through a lens that says, “You should be frightened. It’s terrible out there, and you can’t trust it.” Kids with that perspective begin life at a disadvantage.
Fortunately, children have an inner strength that can help them overcome a daily negative perspective and experience. They’re so naturally forgiving and resilient that they tend to make it, no matter what. As if some guardian element wells up from inside and saves them from our worst mistakes. And kids who grow up believing that life is supportive by nature, and that it has their back, fare better.
Our biggest responsibility as parents is to feel all right, even when life’s messy. It’s not necessarily a skill or tendency that we’re born with. It’s a moment-to-moment decision. The most important decision we make as parents, to be a positive example.
And when children grow in the presence of adults who are not afraid and who are finding the world to be an interesting and abundant place, they have a head start on a fulfilling life.
Kids need one wonderful role model.
If they live with just one person who is happy, they can handle one who is not. When they have one parent who’s experiencing life as good and another who is overwhelmed by the challenges, they can handle the comparison and choose the model they want. And they’re wise enough to say, “That’s the way I want to be.”
Even if our marriage isn’t working well, we can be an effective, positive influence on our kids. Our partners may not be happy, in which case they may be bitter and accusing. We can join them in that place, giving back hurt for hurt, anger for anger. Or we can stand outside of it, choosing to be positive instead.
Trying to make-over our partners won’t work. We can’t pressure them to come where we are. We have to accept whatever experience they’re having, without wallowing in it with them.
We can’t give them our joy, but we may be able to help them find an alternative healthier way of living, by living it ourselves. And then our partners may say, “I want some of that!”
And our children will still see at least one person who is consistently joyous, one person who demonstrates that life is not scary or threatening, regardless of current events, money in the bank, promotions at work, peace with other family members, or a good sex life.
The list of reasons to not be happy is endless. And the decision to not go there is life-changing.
Even if our children are grown, we can set an example of someone who’s finding joy in life and maintaining a chosen attitude – and can identify the cause as internal.
A healthy, happy lifestyle is infectious. And when we walk around feeling delighted with life, it just naturally goes better for us. When we find something to appreciate in everything and everyone, we’re less likely to experience people or situations that rub us the wrong way.
When good feelings and experiences snowball.
Once when my husband and I were visiting Mallorca, we were riding a bus into the capital city of Palma de Mallorca when a screw fell out of my sunglasses. It would’ve been easy to feel bummed, but we went the other way.
We began to actually look for this tiniest of screws on the dirty floor of this crowded fast-moving bus. And Ron actually found the thing! We were so excited. Just then, we arrived at our bus stop, and as we got off, there in front of us was an eyeglass store! So we went inside. Were they willing to help us? Of course, they were! A friendly salesperson fixed my glasses. No charge! Out of the store we went, feeling happy and grateful. And to top it all off, Ron grabbed my arm and said, “Listen!” A band in the park across the street was playing Van Morrison’s “Bright Side of the Road!”
It really works to just not let anything or anyone talk us out of feeling good. When we choose to enjoy each moment, simply because it feels better to live life that way, it feels as if we’re in the right place, at the right time, on the right trajectory toward the future. Innovative ideas occur to us, people show up with whatever we need, doors fly open, opportunities abound, and we thrive!
And our kids get to see us doing it!