Kids Are Getting the Wrong Message About Happiness. Here’s What You Need to Tell Them

Kids Are Getting the Wrong Message About Happiness. Here’s What You Need to Tell Them

via TIME by William Stixrud and Ned Johnson

When we ask parents what they want for their kids’ futures, most answer: “I want them to be happy.” But if you ask most kids what they think their parents want for their future, the answer is usually something like “To get into a good college.” It seems like a disconnect, but it’s not. Many parents we meet in the course of our work with kids believe that acceptance to a good college will lead to a good job, financial security, and happiness ad infinitum. Their kids come to believe this, too. The problem is that we tend to be very poor predictors of what actually makes us happy.

Research tells us that we’re happier if we prioritize having time more than things, giving more than getting, and appreciating what we have more than trying to get what we don’t. So when we equate academic achievement and career success with happiness, we do so potentially at the cost of our kids’ well-being. Considering the marked increase over the last several years in substance use disorders and suicide among high-achieving kids and young adults, it appears that anxiety, depression and hopelessness have little respect for accomplishment.

While no one wishes mental health issues on their kids, some parents think that if their child is exhausted and miserable in high school in order to earn a coveted admission spot, well, that’s just the cost of being happy as an adult—and adolescence isn’t expected to be a happy time, anyway. Our response is threefold: First, we’ve lowered the bar too far when it comes to the adolescent and teen years, thinking of them as merely a time to endure and get through safely, rather than a time to enjoy. Even adolescents feel happiness when they act kindly, get enough sleep, are physically active, do things for others, focus on the positive things in their lives, and spend time in nature. Second, young brains that are stressed, tired, and unhappy all the time can get wired in a way that makes them more vulnerable to anxiety and depression and thus unable to appreciate the success they’ve worked so hard for. And finally, happiness begets success. So by focusing on happiness, you’re actually making it more likely that your kid achieves, well, whatever he or she wants.

A wealth of research offers insight about what does bring happiness. And there’s broad agreement that in any happiness equation, what happens to you—which includes a letter of admission to that coveted school—matters surprisingly little. Two of the things that do matter a lot: 1) strong relationships, and 2) a sense of meaning or purpose. And yet we so seldom talk with our kids about either…

… keep reading the full & original article HERE