Food for thought from Christa McAuliffe Academy School of Arts and Sciences online school co-founder Tamra Excell. As we talk with parents about their hopes and dreams for their children, so many things come up — good health, nourishing relationships, inspiring role models, adventures, careers they’ll love etc. All of these good intentions and dreams we have for our children usually boil down to two things: happiness, and self-sufficiency. However, what do these two things look like? Unknown Object I have some ideas, but I want to hear yours too. I believe that thinking about happiness and conversing about it will help us in our pursuit to empower our children to be happy individuals. So what is happiness? And is it important? Some people live in a more constant state of happiness than others. What are they doing that others are not? Happiness is something we continuously pursue. Just as we have moments of hunger and fullness, so it is with happiness. Happiness can be reached by eliminating pain (hunger, sorrow, etc.), and/or through sources of joy (food, entertainment, connections with others). Some argue that letting go of unnecessary attachments, such as agonizing over things out of our control, is also key to happiness. Living a meaningful life – one with a sense of purpose – has been correlated with happiness. The pitfall here is that people have different core values, which can also change throughout their lives, so defining “purpose” is a very individual thing. The same can be said for sources of joy; for example, social events are energizing for some and draining for others. Right up there with purpose, gratitude has a powerful impact on happiness. Even in challenging situations, I look for the silver lining and what there is to be grateful for. Have you ever done this, or heard of practices such as thinking of good things each night before bed? Is it something we should consciously be teaching kids? With all of the above in mind, to be happy, we must be aware of our own needs, strengths, and passions before we can become more mindful of our pursuit of happiness. Can we do this without judgment? What if my core values or strengths are not as newsworthy as yours, but I am still designing a life that fits me; is this good enough? As always, I ponder these types of ideas with kids in mind. How do we mentor them in creating the best life possible for themselves? Should happiness be a part of that conversation? As parents and educators of online school, let’s actively ponder these questions and determine our own individual ways of pursuing, cultivating and sharing happiness. Together we can teach young people to do the same and our world will become a happier place.