Tuesday, January 25, 2011

From Tears to Joy

I've shared with many of you before, that my daughter is a "glass half empty" kind on girl. For example, it had been raining for days on end and the gloominess was really getting to me. All of a sudden, we woke up on a Saturday and the skies had cleared. The gleaming sunshine, was like a gift wrapped with a bright yellow bow. As we were running errands that day, I started talking about how good the sun felt and how happy I was that it had stopped raining. My daughter immediately started fussing and whining because the sun was to bright. Who complains about it being too sunny???

I recently finished reading Raising Happiness, learning a few new tricks to helping kids find joy in their lives. In chapter 4, the author talks about research that shows 40% of our happiness comes from the activities we choose to participate in.  I immediately thought of my daughter.  Even though she is a "glass half empty" kind of girl, when she swims or does gymnastics, she NEVER STOPS SMILING.  She's happy when she feels like she is successful.

I feel like my kids have a pretty good life. We don't spoil them, by any means, but they have enough toys, food, games, activities, and special outings with mom and dad. My husband and I are really happy people. There is a lot of laughter in our house. Our kids are pretty well behaved and rarely will we raise our voices. (I said rarely, not never.) It's a happy life. So why would my sweet little kindergartner be such a grump all of the time? Yesterday, we were driving in the car, when out of the blue she started crying uncontrollably. As she was sobbing, she was complaining that her brother has more playdates than she does. Where did this come from? We weren't even talking about playdates! I pointed out that if one of them has a friend over, we usually call a friend for the other child. I also pointed out that she had been invited to her first sleep over and her brother hadn't had any sleep overs yet this year. It was no use. Still, tears.

Then, I turned to an activity we did in the classroom.  Our counselor, Mrs. Babin, shared a relaxation CD with me.

We've been using this CD, and the very short relaxation activities, to help us calm our bodies and get ready for our work time.  One of my favorite activities is the Cloud of Calmness.  We listened to the directions, closed our eyes, and created mental images of our clouds of calmness.  At the very end,  kids were asked to think of something they were really good at and picture themselves doing that activity.  I love the way this encourages positive thinking.  Later in the day, we shared the things we felt good about during our class meeting.  Kids said they were good swimming, running, riding bikes, gymnastics, coloring, and many other activities.  I was thrilled to see their smiles as they shared. 

So, back to the car ride with my daughter.  She was crying because she never get to have playdates.  At that point, I told the kids about the activity we did during the day.  I told my kids that it made me wonder what they felt they were really good at.  My son said he was a good listener in school, good at math, and good at organizing.  (Yes, he really is good at organizing.  He's the only 9 year old I know with hanging file folders to organize his completed homework.)  My daughter said she is good at playing, eating, and running.  I pointed out a few other things they are really good at.  I told my daughter that she is the only kindergartner I know who can pass the swim test at the YMCA, with the ability to swim the length of the pool without stopping.  I told her that her gymnastics coach said that she does an absolutely perfect cartwheel.  I shared with them that my son is really good at sports and so well behaved that the teachers and coaches argue over who gets to have him. 

Pointing out the wonderful things our kids do is a confidence boost.  Suddenly, my daughters tears turned to stories of passing the swim test for the first time and great days at gymnastics.  There is was... joy.  Give it a try!  Ask your child to think of three things they are good at.  Then, add a few things you think they are good at too.  I guarantee it will bring a smile, a story, or simply a happy kindergartner.
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