How to lay the Foundation for Future Happiness in your Child

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“How different our lives are when we really know what is deeply important to us, and keeping that picture in mind, we manage ourselves each day to be and to do what really matters most.” Stephen R. Covey

As human beings we are all involved in creative processes whether we know it or not and, quite frankly, whether we like it or not.

When we get to create something from scratch by putting pieces together, like when building a house or recording a piece of music, we may choose to first build a two-room home, live there for a year or two, and then add more rooms.

Or a musician can record a song with guitar backing only, and add more instruments later on. In these instances one can take one’s time, learn as you go along and add a bit here and there when you feel like it. You can pretty much allow your level of effort be dictated by how much money and energy you have available at that point in time. No harm done.

Unfortunately, in many other instances, this approach doesn’t work. Some creative processes are more like baking a cake:  there are certain basic ingredients that simply have to be added; a certain balance needs to be maintained in the system or else the whole thing will, well … flop.

The baker has limited scope to add some of his own flair to the process. For the most part, he simply needs to respect the “big picture” of what it takes to bake a cake.
I can think of at least two creative processes that parents are responsible for that fall into the “recipe” category:
1. Building a child’s brain: If you’re visiting this blog and you’re not familiar with the Practica Programme, it will probably serve you well to visit to find out more about this valuable system, which basically empowers parents by offering them a complete big picture and step-by-step guide for building young brains – complete with all the ingredients in correct measure and balance and how to add them year by year as time goes by.
2. Laying the foundations for future happiness in a child: Similarly, laying the foundations for future happiness in a child is not a project that responds well to a touch-and-go, slapdash, or “we’ll-fix-it-when-we-get-to-it” approach.
So imagine my delight when I stumbled on a five sentence summary of what is described as the “basic factors making for happiness in the human mind”.
It felt as if bells where ringing in my head. Yay! The “big picture” of how we can radically raise our children’s changes of growing into happy adults!
What really caught my attention was that this strikingly complete “big picture” was (1) coming from the mouth of the famous psychologist, Carl Jung; (2) given to us when he was 85 years old, after all that he has experienced and when he was close to the end of his remarkable life and (3) shared during an interview with utmost confidence and clarity in response to a question to which a vague, off-the-cuff answer would probably also had sufficed. . . 

Here is the quote as I found it on the Happiness Project:

In 1960, journalist Gordon Young asked Jung, “What do you consider to be more or less basic factors making for happiness in the human mind?” Jung answered with five elements:

1) Good physical and mental health.
2) Good personal and intimate relationships, such as those of marriage, the family, and friendships.
3) The faculty for perceiving beauty in art and nature.
4) Reasonable standards of living and satisfactory work.
5) A philosophic or religious point of view capable of coping successfully with the vicissitudes of life.

Here’s what I advise you to do to make this knowledge work for you:

Sit down and think through each of these factors. What choices are you making (both deliberately and unintentionally) in your own life to either sabotage or invest in each of these five happiness factors?  Giving attention to whether or not we as parents are relatively happy in ourselves is like keeping the kitchen clean in which our child’s “happiness cake” is taking shape.
Now think about how your child is doing with regards to each of Carl Jung’s happiness factors? Here are a few examples of questions that you may want to ask yourself:
1.    Are you making it easy for your child to adopt healthy eating habits? Are you setting an example by exercising regularly? With regards to mental health, are you teaching your child to take responsibility for his or her own emotions?  

2.    What are you (intentionally or unintentionally) teaching your child about relationships? Have you practically taught him how to hold a conversation as yet? Make friends? Maintain ties with family? Or does he constantly hear you criticize friends and family when they’re not around? The list can go on and on ….
3.    How are you fostering an appreciation of beauty in art and nature in your child? Do you expose him or her to various kinds of music, art and cultural styles? Are you taking your child on trips to the country and encouraging him to spend time in nature? 
4.    Are you investing in developing your child’s brain tools and his future learning abilities? Are doing what is necessary to develop his talents and take care of “weaknesses” while he is still young and his brain is still developing? (Three hoorahs for the Practica Programme!) 

5.    Are you letting your child into your spiritual world? What are you teaching your child about faith as he watches you live your life? How much input does he receive in this regards compared to, say, the amount of time that he spends in front of the television on a weekly basis?
All parents face situations every now and then on their parenting journey that call for them to make decisions that are bound to impact their children’s lives to a large degree. Examples of this include when we choose a caregiver for our baby or toddler, decide on a school for our older kids and when we have to exclude certain extra-curricular activities to make a child’s weekly schedule more child-friendly.

I believe that Carl Jung’s happiness factors can be used as a wonderfully practical tool to help parents make decisions that are truly in their child’s best interest. Oh, how I love it when things come together with real meaning!

Written by Lizette van Huyssteen
When we know better… we do better

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