If you ask any parent what they want for their children, they’ll most likely tell you they want them to be happy and successful. More specifically, they will say they want them to get “good grades,” become “star athletes,” “get along” with their siblings, and to “grow up to get a good job and have a happy marriage.” As a student and practitioner of positive psychology, I think what we really want for our children goes beyond happiness and success — it means we want them to flourish in every way — at home, at school, in life.
1. (of a person, animal, or other living organism) grow or develop in a healthy or vigorous way, especially as the result of a particularly favorable environment.
The term “flourish” came commonly used in our happiness vocabulary when it was introduced by the “father” of the positive psychology movement, Dr. Martin Seligman, in his 2011 book Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-Being. To flourish, according to Dr. Seligman, is to strive for well-being. Yes, happiness is an essential part of the equation, but we also need other pursuits in order to flourish — positive emotions, engagement, good relationships, meaning and purpose, and accomplishments.
Flourishing, then, is not a state of being but a process of becoming — a journey towards a better life. That’s not only what we want for our kids, it’s what we desire for ourselves.
The content itself — happiness, flow, meaning, love, gratitude, accomplishment, growth, better relationships — constitutes human flourishing. Learning that you can have more of these things is life changing. Glimpsing the vision of a flourishing human future is life changing.” – Martin Seligman
I don’t know about you, but I love the concept of flourishing because it means we can always be taking action that moves us closer to the goal of being happier, more successful, trying to achieve greater well-being, finding more joy, more meaning, building healthy relationships, engaging in what we love to do, choosing to live a more fulfilling life.
I have spent the past several years studying and cultivating my own flourishing using the evidence-based tools and practices of positive psychology, and as a parent, I have devoted the past 25 years to facilitating my family’s flourishing. I created Parent with Perspective to help other families flourish by sharing the practical wisdom I’ve gained from my own experience, and the expert advice based on research in positive and developmental psychology. Through workshops and coaching, I am a “flourishing facilitator,” finding meaning and purpose in guiding parents along their own parenting journeys, encouraging them to examine and build on what works in their own families, and to develop new practices and habits that support their own flourishing.
So how can we as parents help our children? First and foremost, we can be role models for flourishing. In doing so, we also can provide the opportunities and conditions (the “favorable environment” in the dictionary definition) under which they can flourish. I believe that those opportunities and conditions come down to “five fundamentals for flourishing” that can help make all kids “happy campers”: movement, play, friendships, structured freedom, and nature.
To learn more, stay tuned for my book “Happy Campers” All Year Long: Five Fundamentals for Flourishing which will be published at the end of this year, and look out for “Happy Campers: How to Help Our Kids Flourish” parent workshops in your area.