Happy parents, happy children

An article in The Globe and Mail last month got Monica and I talking.  In it, writer Sarah Hampson posits that parents are only as happy as our least happy child.  Quoting paediatrician and author Dr. Meg Meeker, Ms. Hampson affirms that “we have come to this point where we measure our success as parents on the happiness of our children.”

While I wonder how healthy that might always be, Monica and I certainly relate: When another student is unkind to our daughter at school, we get upset, too; when our son gets an owie, we empathize with his pain.  Indeed, St. Paul’s directive to “rejoice with those who rejoice [and] mourn with those who mourn” applies not only to people “out there” somewhere, but within our own homes, too.

Thinking about this article, Monica and I wondered whether the corollary is also true: Are children only as happy as their least happy parent?

Yes, I know that everyone has to “own” and take responsibility for their emotions.  And consistently faking happiness so as not to inconvenience another person can’t be healthy.  But if I’m a generally grumpy, discontent person, how much of that disposition infects my children?  Will they learn to be generally familyunhappy and dissatisfied because it is precisely what I am modelling?  That makes sense to me.

On the other hand, if I remember and live by another directive of St. Paul – to “rejoice in the Lord always” – wouldn’t that positively impact my children?  I would think so.  My joy – something deeper than happiness because it is connected to my relationship with God and not with changing circumstances – is contagious.  That leads me to hope and pray that my children learn by my example and my teaching to live daily in the joy of the Lord.  That will ultimately give them more happiness than I ever can.

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