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For Kid's Sake: Parent's Have A Duty To Be Happy
by Francesca Biller-Safran
TheSyndicatedNews columnist

Award-winning Investigative Journalist and Columnist with experience reporting breaking news, longer features and op-eds about race, politics, business, socioeconomics, arts and culture, ethics and parenting issues for newspapers, magazines, radio and websites. Awards include The Edward R. Murrow Award, two Society of Professional First Place Journalism Mark of Excellence Awards and two Golden Mike Awards for Excellence in Hard News and Best Series Reporting.

While there is no greater joy in the world than having a happy, contented child; the same can be said for children in having a happy, blissful parent.

We can lavish all the money, entertainment and love in the world on our babies, but if we are miserable and not able to feel joy ourselves, than our children suffer more than any new electronic gadget we can buy them will ever be able to remedy.

Psychiatrist Carl Jung said, “The greatest tragedy of the family is the unlived lives of the parents.”

This has become more evident than Jung could have foreseen, with more parents not only living secretly or public unhappy lives, but in essence rearing children without the tools to realize their own happiness as they have not had contented parents to raise them.

In recent years parents have begun to focus so much on the bliss of their children that they often put aside their own. Due to a culture of excessive materialism, broken families and excessive guilt because parents have to work too much, kids get most of the free time, money and energy parents barely have, leaving some families overdrawn, overspent and overwhelmed.

Ironically we feel our children are reflections of ourselves, and when they are happy, we feel we have succeeded in the ultimate goal of successful parenting.

But if we have forgotten how to be happy as well, we are in essence teaching that happiness isn’t so important after all, except if you are sacrificing your own for that of others, which for children is a costly mistake.

Children do not live in a vacuum, rather they are vacuums that consume everything and take in of all of the psyche and unintentional frenzied parenting we often besiege them with throughout childhood.

Albeit lovingly, we often pass down to our children the stresses and haunts of adulthood, chipping away at their innocence one hard lesson at a time, beginning with our own role modeling of often leading unfulfilled lives.

Many parents seem nearly embarrassed to admit happy occasions they experience without their children, as if the more they sacrifice, the better a parent everyone and especially their children will think that they are.

Some parents become martyrs and even brag about how they haven’t had a vacation in years, can’t remember the last time they’ve seen a movie with their spouse and live vicariously through everything that involves their children.

Soccer games, softball practices, dancing, music lessons and playdates take up nearly every afternoon and weekend, leaving some kids and parents so spent and exhausted they have forgotten how to find joy in the simple, quiet pursuits we all need for mental stability and inner peace.

Even when kids are home, they often spend most time on the Internet, watching T.V., and playing any kind of electronic game they can get their hands on; essentially tuning out from the hyper over-scheduling that has taken over their lives.

Aristotle said, “Happiness depends upon ourselves and belongs to the self-sufficient.”

If our kids aren’t ever allowed to find through self-discovery and necessary frustration what makes them tick and turns on their passion, than we aren’t really teaching them anything at all, except that they need to be given happiness through continual busy work and from the direction of others.

Similarly, if parents don’t allow themselves the time to pursue their own interests, we are teaching them that our lives are not as valued as theirs, leaving them with unhealthy role models.

Paul Pearsall, Ph. D. in his book The Pleasure Prescription calls this a “toxic epidemic” and writes that many families today suffer from what he calls “Delight Deficiency Syndrome,” a lack of joy and sufficient daily bliss to bring about necessary psychological and physical health.

He says that parents need to enjoy their life and their children and stop worrying so much about creating a forever-suffering inner child.”

Historically what has made children happy has been to learn from interesting things their parents and others did, and in turn have spun their own dreams from what they became passionate about, rather than being the focus themselves of happiness found through constant attention.

A boy who watches his father happily fix up an old car or to help him build a fence for example, is a true memory of happiness he can build upon. Likewise, a young girl growing up with a happy, fulfilled mother is more valuable than all of the designer handbags in the world that her mother can attempt to satiate her with.

Aristotle said, “Happiness depends upon ourselves and belongs to the self-sufficient.”

My generation and largely those before us were taught the values and importance of independence, self-respect, being industrious, and above all else, working hard at pursuits through self-discovery. Happiness was not a goal; but the result of the pursuit of something you fell in love with.

Harnessing a child’s love for the things they love is a vital part of raising happy children, but a parent who dares to also live a fulfilled life is one of the most loving gifts one can give to their child.

And that lesson can only be matched by the autonomous happiness of spirit you may one day witness in your own children as they grow up to be as fulfilled and peaceful as you.

Published: Sep 15,2008 22:15
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