When parents are asked what they want for their children they will usually say, “I just want them to be happy?” Their pursuit of happiness for their child is understandable because a happy child causes parents much less angst than an unhappy child. The challenge is to know how to create a truly happy child. The trap is to think that if a child is given everything they want, or if things are always made easier for them, they will be happy.
As an educator and a parent, I understand the trap but it is one to be avoided. The research that underpins the positive psychology movement has highlighted that there are a number of character traits that need to be developed if a child is to be truly happy. Amongst the characteristics, there are two which stand out: being focused on others and gratitude.
In seeking to develop these character traits in our students, which are also at the heart of the Christian faith, St Luke’s has introduced into the Year 9 program, a partnership with Arranounbai School at Frenchs Forest. The students at Arranounbai can have both physical and/or intellectual disability. Each Year 9 student at St Luke’s will spend one morning a week, for four weeks, at Arranounbai, helping where it is useful. The first group of students has recently finished their program and they have been deeply moved by the experience and personally enriched.
It is our hope for our students, that by serving others, and being focused on others, they will gain a sense of gratitude and will in turn, experience a genuine and more meaningful appreciation of happiness.