I didn’t have kids yet while my friend was already going through a divorce. In the evening, she would end a bedtime story to her daughter saying:
“And they lived happily ever after. But that’s not the way life goes.“
Growing up, we learn many life lessons the hard way: romantic love cannot solve all your problems. There is no other perfect half for you. No one and nothing creates your happiness but you. To be able to face the world and overcome their own dissatisfaction, our children need to know themselves and learn how to manage relationships first. Especially if they are highly sensitive persons.
Children need social and emotional learning – their happiness and success in life do not depend on their grades only. We need to teach our kids how to cope with their own feelings and understand other people’s as well. How to keep positive relationships and make good decisions. Life is both what happens to you unplanned and what you make of it.
I grew up on Andersen’s and the Grimm brothers’ fables, which were too grim for me (the pun intended). I also watched Disney’s cartoons and expected to find Prince Philip. He was unavailable 🙂
After a couple of decades I finally realized – you can’t sleep your way to happiness. And even if you work your butt off, no glass shoe will raise your social status. You may not even get what you think you deserve. Life can be unfair.
When my kids were 3, I bought them a book about a boy whose bird died. I wanted to bring in a bit of the Danish spirit to our family. Life is a box of chocolates – not because it’s all sweet but because you don’t know what you are going to get. And the negative is inevitable. The unpredictability scares us.
This is why Danes read gloomy stories to their kids:
“Danes often rank as the happiest people on Earth, and it’s a happiness that’s based on realistic expectations. We know that scars are a part of life. We can’t avoid getting hurt, but we can give our children the tools to handle real-life experiences in a healthy way and recognize that these downturns won’t topple them.“
Parents need to read such stories to their children to help them process their negative emotions and teach them empathy.
As my kids were getting older, I was thinking of what life lessons to share with them and thus prepare them for the grown-up world. I came up with these:
- Most of us are average. You are enough the way you are.
- Don’t feel awkward because you are different. Others just may not understand you.
- Growing up hurts, it’s normal to have a desire to escape. But that’s not the solution – the escape is usually called drugs or alcohol, and they don’t solve problems.
- Don’t look for love to make you happy forever. Because it won’t.
- Learn how to accept your negative feelings. Many adults still don’t know this (look at how the life coaching industry is blossoming).
- Enjoy being alone and you won’t feel lonely anymore.
- Fear is always different from what you are afraid of.
- Problems teach us valuable lessons, challenges make us grow.
- The best things in life are what you make or do. And when you create something, you are your best version then.
- Life is uncomfortable, unpredictable, and rewarding.
Thinking about what I didn’t read while growing up, I wrote a small chapter book with life lessons for children and teens – a real but not brutal story about a little bird who cannot fit in. It is a children’s book which adults also like.
The language is simple – you can read it to your preschoolers before sleep in half an hour. You can do it as a read-aloud in class. Or give it as a present to your 30-something friend who is still single. The older the reader is, the more layers in the story will they see. After the tale, there is a section with important life lessons to discuss.
I have published the book on AMAZON in English
and on KOBO:
- in English,
- in Serbian,
- bilingual (Serbian and English) so that Serbian children around the world don’t forget their mother tongue, and for kids from Serbia who want to learn English
Here are the first readers’ reactions to the book.
As a follow-up to the book, I will discuss the problems of real-life parenting and growing up on my website. And I will try to find competent conversational partners to learn more. Join me on my way to self-improvement – feel free to subscribe to my weekly email.