As adults, we waste much needed energy anticipating problems, excessively planning, and worrying over and pining for potential future accomplishments. We instill this same, dare I say, anxiety in the children who watch and emulate us. Through no fault of the adults who exhibit such anxieties, these behaviors teach that happiness is measured solely by outward accomplishments, instead of focusing on small pleasures, and teaching that an abundance of them brings true joy.
As a teacher, I see the pressure that children place on themselves for exceptional achievement. Standardized tests required for junior high school, high school, and college placement exacerbate this pressure times ten! Before the end of elementary school is even within grasp, I see students fixated on how their junior high school placement will impact their college placement. These aspirations are worthy of foresight, but too much focus on the future can lead to a loss of childhood and the belief that achievement drives happiness. It is important to model the significance of these accomplishments in conjunction with highlighting the discovery of and pleasure in daily life. I do not know anyone who positively reflects on memories of taking standardized tests or fondly recalls filling out college applications. On the contrary, I do hear children speak with jubilation about funny moments during a family outing and see children overwhelmed with excitement when telling a good joke passed down from a parent told over a family dinner. Inspiring your children to see their potential in the future is exceedingly valuable, but balancing that with encouraging them to enjoy their childhood today is a gift.
To allow our children to revel in life’s small moments, we too must revel in life’s small moments, for it is through our eyes that children see what the world and their lives have to offer. We must keep our eyes open to point out beautiful fall foliage during the drive or walk to school, keep our ears open to laugh at their funny stories, and keep our hearts open to show them love during even their smallest accomplishments. Allow your child to get lost in small moments while you take pleasure in seeing their joy by trying these suggestions:
- Dance. Have an impromptu dance party with your child to their favorite music. There is always room in our lives to let loose.
- Create a ritual. Make a habit of setting aside an activity that you and your child do together routinely. Try scheduling an evening walk after dinner to chat about the best part of your child’s day or making a healthy breakfast for the family during the weekend.
- Build shared experiences. Color with your child . . . for no other reason than sharing the moment. Share the small moments that you revel in with your child. Highlight those times that you feel you can just live in the moment and peacefully settle in. If it is possible, bring your child in on one of those moments. For example, if it is your weekly yoga class, take a family yoga class together. If it is sitting on the deck after dinner with a cup of tea, invite your child to join you and enjoy your moment!