If embracing My Perfectly Imperfect Mom Life has taught me anything, it’s that perspective matters.
As the mom of two grown daughters trying to navigate a very New Normal— while also trying to ensure that my family stays optimistic in these weird, unsettling times — here’s what I know… the power of positivity is every parent’s secret weapon.
In fact, it’s every human’s secret weapon. Because as far as parenting tools are concerned, the skill of learning how to harness positivity is one of the most powerful tools any of us have in our pocket. We just need to make sure we know how to use it.
Think of it like this: Our attitude is like a giant suit of bubble wrap that insulates and protects us from all the rough spots we hit with our kids. And while it can’t stop things from happening around us, it can damn well help cushion us from some of the emotional shots to the head that we take as parents.
Because (and here’s the big reveal), our attitude is one of the only things we have complete control over and it’s one of our biggest assets.
See, positivity is a conscious choice, and when we practice happiness as parents and coach our kids to do the same, then, eventually, everyone learns to choose it on their own.
Just like how we teach our kids manners or good study habits or how to pee on the potty, we’re also the ones responsible for shaping their understanding of what an advantage it is to have a good attitude. And we do all that by modeling it ourselves and leading by example.
That means, it’s up to us to explain to our kids that happiness is a choice — probably one of the most important choices any of us can make. I mean, as far I’m concerned, happiness is a life skill — a skill we learn first at home.
Now our ultimate goal as moms and dads is to raise happy, loved, and motivated kids, right? Well, the way we do that is by engaging with them and showing them the way.
We need to teach them what it means to choose happiness in their everyday lives and why it’s such a powerful skill to learn. Because when our kids see us encourage and support and inspire the people around us, then that will motivate them to do the same.
I’m a big believer that happiness is a trickle-down effect, especially in families. And it’s something that starts from the top — from us — and dribbles its way through everyone else. This is exactly why it’s so critical that we practice happiness early on with our kids. Because kids tend to follow our lead with most things, especially the positive stuff.
And on the flip side, it’s just as important that we allow our kids to see how the good and the bad stuff impacts us and show them how we work through it.
Like, it’s OK to let our kids see that we’re frustrated or sad or missing our family and friends, because those feelings are real and we need to address them and let ourselves sit in them, even just for a little while. Because we’re all feeling them in one way or another.
But it’s only by feeling them and communicating them to each other that we learn how to move through them and find our way back to positivity as our north star.
The bottom line is that we need to remember that we’re the role models for our kids, so what we say and how we say it and what we do and how we do it influences the way they interact with one another and the rest of the world.
So, if we’re super conscious of how we’re handling something like, say, this pandemic, for instance, and we act with them watching us in mind, then it’s a solid bet that they’re going to pick up what we’re laying down, you know?
Look, there’s no denying that the process of fusing those skills into our kid’s hardwiring takes time and patience, because it does. In the same way that we need to hang onto the back of our kid’s bike seat while they’re learning to ride without training wheels, we also have to nurture their happiness.
And to do that, we teach them to use tools like positive self-talk, developing gratitude, and finding joy in doing everyday things.
At the same time, though, we can’t insulate our kids from the life around them either. Part of learning how to be a well-rounded human is being able to experience pain and bliss and success and disappointment in life in order to learn how to maneuver through it when the time comes.
The irony is, that as desperately as we all want to raise our kids to be happy and joyful, we have to also raise them to accept the reality that life isn’t always that big, overflowing bowl of cherries. That there’s disappointment woven into every phase of life, but that’s okay, because disappointment teaches us all good lessons too, like how to be resilient.
The simple, unfiltered truth is that life — including parenthood — isn’t a straight line. But when we’re armed with a positive attitude, we can almost always find our way to the other side of just about any situation. And when we give our kids the foundation to do the same, then everybody wins.
Lisa Sugarman is a parenting author, columnist, and radio show host living just north of Boston with her husband and two grown daughters. She writes the nationally syndicated opinion column “It Is What It Is” and is the author of “How to Raise Perfectly Imperfect Kids And Be Ok With It,” “Untying Parent Anxiety,” and “LIFE: It Is What It Is.” Lisa is also the co-host of LIFE UNfiltered on Northshore 104.9FM and a regular contributor on GrownAndFlown, Thrive Global, Care.com, LittleThings, More Content Now, and Today.com. Visit her at lisasugarman.com.