Why can’t we let our children be miserable?
I am generally a happy person, I love sunshine yellow and a right good laugh but I am getting rather concerned with our obsession with happiness. With media stars and celebrities currently releasing books on happiness and particularly how it relates to motherhood, I do cringe a little at the lessons we might be teaching.
Happiness, slowing down and being mindful are all great things to have in our lives but to have them as the ultimate goal may well be causing us to constantly strive for the impossible, therefore making us more miserable.
Day in and day out I work with young girls and a lot of them are miserable. Some would blame social media, current society pressures or ridiculously high expectations; I blame the pursuit of happiness.
Is Happiness really the ultimate goal?
Let me explain. These girls have grown up in an age of self-improvement and self-help; they are the most emotional intelligent generation we have ever seen, very keen to self-reflect on their own emotions and behaviours and talk about them to anyone who will listen.
However, the ideal they have been told to reach for is unobtainable; they firmly believe that any time they are not on their A game, not feeling 100% and not happy that there must be something wrong with them. And I hear every reason for the lack of constant happiness, from the most severe, depression to a Vitamin D deficiency. But what none of them say is they are normal. And they are thinking that they are not normal, not for any reason other than the fact that they are not 100% happy all the time.
It’s unobtainable at the least, damaging at the worse.
Think about it; it’s crazy! We all have down-days, we all feel sad once in a while, and as women we are driven by a cycle that often makes us feel miserable. Reaching for 100% happiness is unobtainable and we would should be saying that. As the tide comes in, it goes out, as the sun rises it sets and as we are happy we are also sad. It’s natural to feel sad and we should be telling this more to young girls.
We should be telling them that feeling low does not mean there is something wrong with them, having an off-day does not make them a failure and crying every now and then does not make them depressed.
Our obsession with happiness as adults is having the effect of making our children miserable.
As parents and adults I feel we have an obligation to the next generation to paint a real picture of life, not a sterilised one, to show our emotions, to let them know that we don’t always feel 100%, to show them that it is normal to not feel OK. We owe it to them to help them live a full and rich life, which we hope will be happy but will also probably be sad sometimes, awful other times and sometimes make us cry ourselves to sleep.
To experience happy we have to know what sadness is, we have to stop demonising sadness and making people wrong for being sad. We need to stop reaching for a happiness ideal which is totally unobtainable, ever if you are a shiny celebrity.
This article was first published on The Huffington Post