Adar and Purim are the happiest times in the Jewish calendar. It’s the time of year to cultivate true happiness, simcha.
What brings true happiness? The latest research done by Harvard psychiatrist George Vaillant has shown that “the only thing that matters in life is relationships. A man could have a successful career, money and good physical health, but without supportive, loving relationships, he wouldn’t be happy… Happiness is only the cart; love is the horse.”
According to Rabbi Zelig Pliskin: “The essential factor whether or not you will live a happy life is not based so much on external factors such as wealth success or fame but on your attitude towards life, towards yourself, towards other people and towards events and situations.”
So how do we teach these two concepts to our kids?
The best way to teach our children anything is to role model for them. In Martin Seligman’s book, The Optimistic Child, he states the importance of children having good role models. He feels that parents who are optimistic are more likely to have children who are optimistic. I would suggest that happy parents will have happy kids.
Then, as parents, we want our children to see that we put effort into cultivating good relationships with others and we have a positive attitude about life.
Kids need to see us extending ourselves to our spouses and our family. According to Gretchen Ruben, author of Happier at Home, a simple way to do this is to make a family resolution to “Give warm greetings and farewells.”
“For instance, instead of letting my older daughter yell, ‘I’m leaving!’ before she disappears out the door to go to school, I call, ‘Wait, wait,’ and hurry to give her a real hug and a real good-bye,” Ruben writes. “As a consequence, each day, several times, we have moments of real connection among all members of our family.”
We also need to let our kids see us developing relationships with our neighbors and our community. It is best if we volunteer our services to our community using our talents. In that way, we are modeling for our children the building of relationships in a way that is beneficial for all. Using our talents in positive ways usually makes us feel satisfied and happy.
For example, one woman loves to bake and sends cakes to her local Bikur Cholim. Another man enjoys laining and teaches the boys in his community how to lain. Another women loves teaching gymnastics and volunteers to teach special needs children this sport.
Sometimes it can be overwhelming to live in frum Jewish community and the demands can be very time-consuming. Children need to see you prioritizing and setting boundaries as well so that they know that your family does comes first.
Teaching kids to be happy can be done in very simple ways. Showing our children how to cultivate relationships with a positive attitude is one way to do that. Happy Purim!
The words of this author reflect his/her own opinions and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Orthodox Union.