What do we most wish for our children? If we are honest with our answers, probably it is something like for them to be happy in their lives. By happiness we may mean either a life full of comfort and pleasure or one that makes full use of our child’s potential and makes him / her a mature and resilient person. We all know, to some extent, that we cannot keep our kids sheltered indefinitely, and sooner or later they will meet the ‘real world’, warts and all. It is our hope, and constant endeavour, to ensure that when that inevitable setback happens, whether it be a rejection from a prestigious college or the sustained stress/ challenge of preparing for that entrance exam, or the ‘office politics’ in the first job that disorients our kids, our kids are able to cope with that.
And yet, what do traditional schools typically teach? Overtly they teach knowledge and skills in certain domains, and covertly they also teach a little about the necessity to succeed in exams – by hook or by crook- If you can’t develop love for the subject or see its practical implications, still just mug it up so that you can use that as a stepping stone to greener pastures. While not undermining the need for practical skills or knowledge base, the education system can do a lot more to inculcate in students, skills that are necessary to thrive in the ‘real world’.
These skills include becoming passionate about some things so that you can put a lot of hard work to achieve goals that are aligned with your sense of who you are. Having such clarity about goals and values and having supportive tools, like knowing what strengths they possess, which can help them achieve these goals, would increase the odds of the students becoming happier later in life, many fold. However, kids of this age typically do not automatically have a clarity about their sense of identity, their passions, their strengths or even what they really want from life. Development happens by default and accident (hit and trial) than by design. And for many that critical stage of identity formation is prematurely and immaturely foreclosed. That need not be the case. Supported by caring others, who are also proficient in guiding the development of such skills, the teenager can be helped to discover their strong and enduring parts that they can lean on in times of crisis.
We may take a cynical view and believe that the best way to make a child swim, is to just leave him in the swimming pool and that our kids will pick up these skills as they go through life, and of course they will, for most of us are indeed very resilient, but at what cost? Do we really want our kids to needlessly suffer or can we do better and endow them with some skills upfront to be resilient and happier, no matter what the circumstances?
It is with these aims that I had come up with a Character Strengths baked positive education program for schools. And for the past 4-5 years I have successfully touched the lives of a few hundred students. Now I present the same experience in an online format . The new online course ‘Developing Resilience: becoming stronger and happier’ aims to equip children with skills required to be happier no matter what: to take charge of their own happiness and well-being.
While we can, only to a limited extent, prepare the road for our children, we can, to a great extent, prepare our children for the road.