Whilst pottering around the other morning, I heard a snippet of a TV programme discussing the idea that schools should be teaching children how to be happy. I nearly spat my coffee out, I was speechless. Really, it’s that easy, kids if you’re not happy, no fear, teachers are here.
The definition of ‘happy’ in the Oxford Dictionary is, “feeling or showing pleasure or contentment”. So, if schools are expected to teach happiness, will children’s happiness be baselined and expected levels of progress be put in place? Will the Oxford Dictionary’s definition be used as a lesson objective? It’s incredulous.
I don’t believe happiness can be taught to children or adults. For me, happiness is rooted in how safe and secure we feel. For children and adults, if we are free from risk and secure in the world around us then happiness is achievable. Yet there are so many areas of our life where our safety and security may be compromised. For children, there are many factors which prevent a child feeling safe or secure in their environment both at home and at school. At home they may be at risk from physical or emotional harm through poverty, abusive relationships, substance misuse or neglect. At school, children may feel insecure because of bullying or vulnerable because of their special educational needs. Children with English as an additional language may not view school to be a safe place because they are isolated through the language barrier. There are also many social and economic factors which may mean that children frequently feel at risk or are insecure. Their parents may work long and unsociable hours or be faced with unemployment, there may housing or health issues which affect how safe or secure a child feels. If a child’s basic needs are not met then happiness is hard to achieve. It is this lack of feeling safe and secure which is the cause of unhappiness. If these issues are not addressed then these children will not be able to experience the happiness goal despite a teachers efforts.
This sense of feeling safe and secure also extends to adults. We seek to find happiness in so many ways; maybe through relationships, material goods or experiences. Many people may well say that they may not feel content with their world around them because of a feeling of insecurity and vulnerability. This may be related to relationships that have been affected by loss of love, illness or death. There may be a sense of insecurity because of financial instability , health concerns or employment issues. From this arises a feeling of vulnerability which hinders and restricts any sense of pleasure or contentment.
Happiness is a feeling that many of us hope to achieve, myself included. It is not as simple as being taught how to be happy if we do not feel safe and secure. If you are sat reading this and not quite feeling as content as you think you should be, or you are not finding pleasure in the world around you, then maybe think about how secure and safe you feel. Think about your relationships, your employment and financial stability, your future, your health and aspirations. If there are elements of uncertainty about any factors in your life that leave you feeling slightly insecure and unsafe, then your happiness will be affected. Once you are able to identify where your vulnerabilities lie, then paving a way towards happiness will be easier.
That’s what I think anyway. I could be completely wrong and someone, somewhere will teach a child how to be happy despite their social and environmental situation. In a way I hope they do. I would rather see the reasons why children feel vulnerable and insecure being tackled rather than a token gesture. If children feel safe and secure they will experience feelings of pleasure of contentment. They will be able to learn for themselves what it is to be happy.