Hey kids, are you even happy?

When Mrs Three Time Daddy became pregnant with our first child all those years ago, we did the usual parents-to-be things: shit ourselves, shit ourselves a bit more, think about all the crap we’d need to buy and then worry about what on Earth we’d call it when it arrived.

Inevitably our thoughts turned to what we hoped our child would be like. ‘Healthy’ came high on the list, but other words such as ‘creative’, ‘musical’, ‘intelligent’ and ‘happy’ made it too. Fast forward nine years and we’ve been extremely lucky with our three children but it is the word ‘happy’ that continues to concern me.

How can I even tell if my kids are happy?

If I’m honest, out of our three kids it is our eldest NJ (9) who I worry about the most. Roo (5) is generally more happy-go-lucky while JJ (18 months) often seems content when he has anything that resembles a football in his hands.

It is NJ who I fear will be more susceptible to bouts of unhappiness. He is spirited, sensitive, intelligent, has intense emotions, places strong value in fairness, often sees things as black and white or right and wrong and is extremely vocal when he doesn’t agree with something.

Just this week I’ve been on the receiving end of ‘YOU HATE ME!’ and ‘YOU WISH I WAS NEVER BORN! I KNOW IT!’ and equally uplighting things like that.

So if I’m worried that my kids aren’t going to be happy, is there anything I should be doing?

Be More Happy In Myself

Happy parents are more likely to have happy kids, right? It sounds counter-intuitive to concentrate on myself rather than my kids, but if they see their dad huffing about work and the endless DIY jobs to do, they’re going to pick up the miserable vibes too. After all, they are little sponges listening and watching when I think they’re not listening and watching and especially when they are acting like they are not listening and watching.

I’m not going to stroll around with a great big fake smile – they’ll just think their dad has gone nuts. No, I’m going to try to make more time for me and do the things that make me happy, such as reading more books, spending more time with friends, running more (dodgy knees permitting), putting down my phone more and enjoying the company of my family.

People Matter

As NJ has grown up, he seems to be more and more obsessed with material things, such as games on the Xbox, virtual ‘points’ that can be used to purchase other items in these games, Match Attax, magazines from shops, football boots, the list goes on. No matter how much he has he always seems to want something else.

Obviously what outlasts the latest craze or fad are his friends and family. It seems like the convenience and accessibility of our electronic world is making it harder to teach the value of these emotional connections (and with three kids under nine we haven’t even touched social media yet). Lately, we’ve been trying to ‘unplug’ our kids a little bit, encouraging playing together outside and basically doing anything that can promote connections with real people, emotions and surroundings.

Play More

How easy is it to sit in front of the TV and zone out, or pick up your phone and endlessly scroll through page after page? How easy is it to get bogged down in dealing with the Everest-sized pile of laundry or DIY jobs that need doing every weekend? How about forgetting that our little kids that want nothing more than the attention of their mum and dad (I’m assured this is not the case with older kids, by the way)?

I’m guilty of all of this. I’m constantly badgered to play football with NJ but there is nearly always a reason not too. JJ would love nothing more than for me to sit on the floor and play with him and his toy garage, but if I get on the floor I probably won’t be able to get back up. Roo is desperate to constantly jump on me with her incredibly boney-knees but obviously that flipping hurts. But it is not just Daddy time they need. They need unstructured, adventurous play where they can explore and discover the world around them, climb trees, build dens and get mucky. Our kids are never more happy than when they get to run around a huge field – simple but fun.

So much of everyday life removes the opportunity for imaginative play, whether it be rigid school lessons, the domination of TV or the dwindling quality of our outdoor parks, playgrounds and open spaces.

So kids, are you even happy?

Let’s face it, kids aren’t exactly reliable. Ask a big question like that and the chances are I’d just get a blank face. Even if I ask them a simple question they often reply with  ‘I don’t know!’ or ‘I don’t remember!’

In reality, they probably wouldn’t even know what to say or know how to translate their complex feeelings into a response.

All I can do is create a happy environment and hope that any missing happiness will come naturally.

11 thoughts on “Hey kids, are you even happy?

  1. I agree, it is one of the most important things on our list as parents. Happiness. We know though even we can not be happy all the time and that is ok too, we show them we have a range of emotions and that it is ok to have days where we do just want to veg out. Mostly though we know the pressure is on because we are their main role model, especially at this stage of their life. So us modelling happiness and actually being happy is hugely important. By following our passions and hem seeing us enjoying our lives they will be happier and feel more secure. Lately I have found that I’ve been enjoying taking mine to the indoor pool, water play means fun and even if I don’t feel like it, or having to deal with the showers, baths later, it is always worth it as we all end up laughing and having fun. The kids weigh nothing in the water so they can be thrown around and it is great exercise and a great way to avoid screen time. Kids are smart too they know when we are faking being happy or when we are distracted. I make sure if they are engaged in play or a chat with me I do not answer the phone so they see I can ignore my phone and make them a priority. I tell them if it is an emergency the person will ring back and I will check my messages later. It makes them feel important. Anyway great post! #thesatsesh

  2. Really though provoking post here. Yes I want my kids to be happy. I also want them to be able to identify and learn to cope with a range of emotions so they become well-rounded, mentally strong adults. #thesatsesh

  3. Love this indeed I wonder everyday if my children are happy but all we can do as parents is make the home happy for them guess what they will still look miserable haha! Great read #dreamteam

  4. Really though-provoking post. At the end of the day we can but try and do these things. And hope they will pick up the happiness ball and run with it. #DreamTeam

  5. #thesatsesh `i listened to a podcast today and it was about a man who went on to be a music producer – huge deal, he grew up with 2 heroine addicts for parents….the home was chaos but he always felt loved and remembers his childhood as happy….seems to be the seeds needed to create a better future generation.

  6. i think the number 1 on my list of wishes for my sons is happiness. through everything i have always assessed their happiness levels. During stressful times i’ve always emphasised the importance of happiness too. “Yes these exams are important, just do your best whatever the results, if you know you have done your best then you can be happy …” and giving kids time. Far more important memories are built with time rather than things xxxx #thesatsesh

  7. Love this post! I definitely think that if you are in a good mood it rubs off on the little ones. Even if they are having a grump, I find if I grin at mine, she can’t help but to eventually grin back. Thanks for joining us for the #dreamteam and bringing all the happiness this week 🙂

  8. This post really resonates with me – all we want is happiness for our children and it’s hard to see them miserable. My eldest sounds very like your NJ and he is causing me much worry at the moment, Your tips are spot on – all the things we are trying to do in our household too. I read a book this week about doing things with joy and not through gritted teeth and I think the kids need to see us choose the former not the latter as much as possible. #thesatsesh

  9. This is perfect. Something that I often ask myself and a large part in why we just recently moved to the country. Kids these days are so overbooked and over stimulated. Sometimes they need to be bored, it builds character. Truly. Happiness is a whole other subject and I love how you touched on the fact that in order to show them happiness we need to show them that our happiness does not always entail them and that’s ok. To model happy we need to do some things that make us happy. This read made me happy. Thank you!

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