Why Are Children So Happy?
There is nothing quite like the unadulterated joy of a child’s laugh. It is, to me, one of the happiest sounds in the world. But why? What is it about children which makes their happiness appear so much more intense than us adults? Perhaps this is too broad a question for a short blog like this and it is undeniable that there are many children in the world who, justifiably, due to their experiences, are not happy. But for the most part, children are, most of the time, happy little humans. Here are a few reasons why children are happy and what role we adults play in keeping our children happy.
If we think for the moment about the life of a child, it is no wonder they are happy a lot of the time. No responsibilities, no worries, no need to think about others; most children really are wonderfully selfish and ignorant. And that’s how it should be. It has long been considered right for children to have a childhood, to enjoy their carefree years before the reality of life descends on them and worries, responsibilities and concerns creep from every facet of their lives. Parents feed, clothe and care for their children in every society throughout the world. Young children are not expected to fend for themselves, feed themselves or be responsible for anything when it comes to their day to day lives. It is the job of adults to keep the children alive and, for the majority of children, their job to have as much fun as possible.
Fun is the centre of a child’s world. At least, it should be. Children are able to have fun far more easily than adults and can be entertained far longer than we can too even by the simplest of things. When an adult becomes bored they may pick up a book or choose to cook an elaborate meal. We may get enjoyment out of these activities but they are not performed in the same way or for the same reasons as a child’s fun activities. Their days revolve around play; even at schools where lessons are now taught using interactive and engaging methods. Adults’ days revolve around responsibilities and any fun activities are seen as a luxury to be indulged in only when all other chores are completed. Although with social media and pressures from the press, children grow up faster than ever, those first few years filled with blissful ignorance continue to be treasured and protected for as long as possible, keeping children happily ignorant when it comes to the reality of the world and filling their days with fun and play.
But their comparative ignorance doesn’t mean a child can’t be unhappy or sad. Just as the giggles of a youngster are heart-warming, the cries of a baby are almost painful to hear, especially by helpless parents who don’t understand what their baby wants or needs them to do. Young children can also experience stress and develop their own problems such as struggling at school, their home life or friendship difficulties. Although these may seem like small issues in the eyes of parents and teachers, to a child, they can appear insurmountable. Children can worry and stress and become unhappy just as easily as adults can even though the reasons may not seem, to our jaded eyes, as problematic. It is important, however, not to dismiss your child when they come to you with problems and to help them work through it in a kind, gentle manner to allow them return to their happy, carefree selves as quickly as possible.
Research is yet to identify a ‘happiness’ gene but scientists and parents alike agree that children are born with different temperaments which lend them to being happier or less happy children. That’s not to say a baby which cries a lot is going to grow into an unhappy adult. The nature versus nurture argument has concluded that both aspects go into making up who we are. The trick is, as parents of less “happy” babies or even that person yourself is to figure out what aspects of ‘nurture’ do make you happy and fulfilled personally and emotionally. Good parents can coax (nuture) a baby with a moody temperament into an adult with a positive, happy personality. At the end of the day, the social relationships a child experiences when they are young go a long way towards defining who they become as adults and how ‘happy’ they are. A stressed household produces a stressed child.
In today’s ‘mindfulness’ culture, it has been pointed out that many of the focal points of what mindfulness is can be attributed to a child. Children focus on the present and put worries about the future from their mind. They are intently aware of what they are doing in the moment and why. They accept change and adapt easily to situations more than adults. They are also aware of how they feel and what they, personally, want at any given moment. However, every child is different and these are all general observations to which not all children will conform. It is nevertheless true, however, that many children do enjoy these attributes in their early years before they are lost to their adult selves. Those who practice mindfulness are attempting to rediscover these abilities.
So perhaps children are not as happy as they seem all of the time but it is undeniable that, for the most part, their lives are considerably less stressful and void of the many responsibilities which keep us adults plodding to work every day. More to the point, as adults we try to fill children’s days with happiness, fun, play and games, encouraging them to be happy as we run around trying to make the rest of their lives as easy as possible. And that’s how it should be. Sooner or later they are going to learn more about our world, be lumbered with their own responsibilities, get jobs which they hate, take on burdensome mortgages, and have children of their own for whom they are consumed with love and worry in equal measure. Let children have their childhood because it will be gone before you know it. Help them to be as happy as they can be and nurture this happiness as they grow up into healthy, happy adults.
Go. Do. Experience. More Good Deeds.