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Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Focus on Fostering: Define "Happy"

Foster children often carry an air of sadness about them.  School pictures often show sad eyes inside a face that thinks it is smiling.  This week I want to spend each day's blog thinking about happiness, about joy, about fun.  My father used to say that people should assume that they are happy unless something is actively making them sad.  [He said it far more cleverly, but of course I have forgotten his exact words.]  But the point stuck with me.  Many people spend [waste?] their whole lives waiting to "feel happy."  One of my favorite holiday decorations is a pillow I've had for years... it says:  "Dear Santa, Define Good." It always makes me smile.  It started me thinking... We spend lots of time teaching our children how to define Good.  Do we ever get around to teaching them how to define Happy?

Oprah Winfrey advocates keeping a "Gratitude Journal" to be more actively thankful for the good things in our lives.  Not a bad idea.

I wonder if maybe we could help our children keep a "Happiness Journal." Children who have been abused, neglected, or traumatized have no problem at all identifying feelings of sadness, of anxiety, of fear, of want.  What they struggle to recognize and label are joy, pleasure, happiness. They usually would have little trouble listing the things which make them sad or unhappy.  How about listing things that make them happy? It would give us a glimpse into them, and would help them document a list of happy moments and events to someday outweigh the sadness.

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