While I should be working on my page long ‘to do’ list, I am taking a short break to jot down some random thoughts. As I scrolled through social media this morning I came upon a post of someone’s child with the caption, ‘gotta keep em happy’.
Many clients bring parenting issues into the therapy room and the emphasis on their children’s happiness seems to flow like an underwater channel to many of their problems.
When I hear ‘all I want is for my children to be happy’, my ears perk up and I think to myself, when did parenting become about making children’s environment a Utopian playground?
As a clinician some of the work I do is to help people come to terms with what they perceive as negative emotions.
Wisdom alert... There are NO negative emotions. All exist for a purpose.
In the book, ‘Emotional Agility: Get Unstuck, Embrace Change and Thrive in Work and Life’, Author Susan David reframes our emotional life by using the metaphor of a lighthouse or a radar while pointing to it as a neurochemical system that has evolved to help us face life’s challenges and complex currents.
If the goal parenting becomes creating a state of pleasure and contentment, all other emotions become the enemy. This within itself ends up creating significant anxiety for both the parents and for the children.
If you find your parenting style defaulting to the goal of keeping your children happy, I would encourage you to re-evaluate your focus.
Parenting is not about creating an idyllic experience. Parenting is about creating emotionally agile humans that can demonstrate emotional flexibility when dealing with the challenges they will face. It is about equipping children to grown into adults that are able to tolerate stress and setbacks, while supporting their sense of identity in a context of acceptance and love.
So if you find yourself emotionally struggling when your children are struggling emotionally, this may be a clue that you are operating out of a desire that is setting you up for eventual failure.
No one is able to reside in a state of contentment. Emotionally healthy individuals respond with flexibility and grace to the tide of emotions we ride each and every day.