Experiencing joy has been described as a tonic for all of us, helping with various ailments and concerns. Joy can be healing and has benefits for children of all ages. How do we increase our focus on experiencing the joyful opportunities around us?
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PODCAST TRANSCRIPTSteve [Intro]: 00:00 Hello, and welcome to the parents as learning coaches edition of the Steve Barkley Ponders Out Loud podcast. Parents and caregivers play many different roles, at times, even somewhat conflicting roles as they support children’s development. The pandemic has shown a light on the importance of parents supporting learners. In this podcast, I’ll look to share my experiences as a teacher, educator, parent, grandparent, and continuous learner that can support your coaching efforts.
Steve: 00:33 Promoting optimal development through joy. I found a blog post titled, “How Experiencing Joy Can Help Children Promote Optimal Development.” It was written by Dr. Mona Delahooke, a clinical psychologist with a focus on joyful parent child relationships. I’ve put the link to the blog and all the other resources that I mentioned in this podcast in the lead-in to this podcast. Dr. Delahooke writes, “joy is a powerful tool for solving childhood challenges and promoting brain health. The simple truth is that joyful connections with caregivers supports optimal emotional development.” Well, that sent me searching for a definition for joy and I came across a Ted talk by Ingrid Fetell Lee, the author of, “The Surprising Power of Ordinary Things to Create Extraordinary Happiness. Listen, as she gives us a description of joy.
Ingrid: 01:48 I know what joy feels like, but what is it exactly? And I found that even scientists don’t always agree and they sometimes use the words, joy and happiness and positivity more or less interchangeably, but broadly speaking, when psychologists use the word joy, what they mean is an intense momentary experience of positive emotion. One that makes us smile and laugh and feel like we wanna jump up and down. And this is actually a technical thing that feeling of wanting to jump up and down is one of the ways that scientists measure joy. It’s different than how happiness, which measures how good we feel over time. Joy is about feeling good in the moment, right now. And this was interesting to me because as a culture, we are obsessed with the pursuit of happiness. And yet in the process, we kind of overlook joy.
Ingrid: 02:44 So this got me thinking, where does joy come from? I started asking everyone I knew and even people I just met on the street about the things that brought them joy. On the subway, in a cafe, on an airplane, it was “hi, nice to meet you. What brings you joy?” I felt like a detective. I was like, when did you last see it? Who were you with? What color was it? Didn’t anyone else see it? I was the Nancy drew of joy and after a few months of this, I noticed that there were so certain things that started to come up again and again and again, they were things like cherry blossoms and bubbles, swimming pools and tree houses, hot air balloons and googly eyes and ice cream cones, especially the ones with the sprinkles. These things seem to cut across lines of age and gender and ethnicity. I mean, if you think about it, we all stop and turn our heads to the sky when the multicolored arc of a rainbow streaks across it. And fireworks, we don’t even need to know what they’re for and we feel like we’re celebrating too.
Ingrid: 04:04 These things aren’t joyful for just a few people. They’re joyful for nearly everyone. They’re universally joyful.
Steve: 04:14 With that picture of what joy might look like, sound like and feel likem consider the words from Dr. Delahooke who says joy heals. Joy is a tonic for human beings across the lifespan, no matter what the ailment concern or condition. Listen to these items she highlights: “joy can help children by reducing anxiety. An active feeling of anxiety is incompatible with joy. Joy boosts learning. Being in a calm state enables the most optimal learning to take place. Joy helps children try new things. When children feel happier, they step out of a self-protective mode, opening themselves up to novel experiences. She suggests that joyful interactions with caring adults build psychological resilience. If there’s one thing you can do to help your child or the children you work with, it is to experience joy with them. Here’s the hard part Dr. Delahooke shares – that in order for us to have joy bubble up, we need to allow ourselves to be present and undistracted for child.
Steve: 05:39 That’s not the easy part is it? There’s no shortcuts to offering time and patience necessary to discover that joy that can arise in any given moment. I had the opportunity earlier to record a podcast with Britney Cabrera as she and I were discussing the elements of joy and the importance for kids to experience joy. Brittany, an experienced teacher and parent shared some of her thoughts for parents. Listen in.
Steve: 06:15 I’m wondering what’s suggestions you have for us as parents. And and for me as a grandparent concerning promoting joy in learning with our kids.
Brittany: 06:25 So my message for myself that I have to remind myself of, because I am no master of this either. And every day is a daily practice is very similar to the same message that I have for teachers, for leaders, for everyone in education. We need to get back to the simplicity. The entire message of “Joyful,” Ingrid Fatell Lee’s message was how simple joy really is. And just remembering that simplicity. So looking at kids’ birthday parties or putting together Easter baskets, I looked on social media one year, which is partly the reason why I’m not really on social media that much anymore, and some of my friends had put out their Easter baskets and said, “oh, the Easter bunny has visited.” But it wasn’t just the basket. It was like bicycles and trampolines and all sorts of stuff. I was like, oh my goodness, that Easter bunny is insane. I mean that is a six foot Easter bunny that drops Easter eggs and now he also drops off trampolines. That’s a little intense. It’s a little much.
Steve: 07:35 Joy gets lost.
Brittany: 07:37 Joy gets lost. And then I will do my own kids’ Easter baskets and I had just gotten things from the dollar section. Some of those bubbles were in there, stickers, the simple things. But the next day I kind of felt bad about myself. But
then the next day, looking at the pictures that my friends had posted and the pictures of my own kids, the joy was the same. It didn’t matter how extravagant it was, just that simple joy. We see that also when the joke about the parent that buys the big gift for the child’s birthday or something and the child is more interested in the box than they are the actual gift right there. Right there. Keep it simple. Even something as simple as bubble wrap. The bubble wrap packaging that comes wrapped around the thing you bought that’s that could very well bring more joy than the actual thing you purchased. So just keeping it simple and watching that curiosity grow, because curiosity also has more of a chance of growing when things are curious. Going back to the bubble example, my daughter’s curiosity took her learning to a whole new scientific level from a really simple activity. So I think just keeping it really simple and just sitting back and watching and looking, and that’s where you’re going to get the most joy.
Steve: 09:03 You just put a big smile on my face because of the number of times as a grandparent, I stopped at the dollar store before I came over. And about four or five little things that in a bag, you know, that ended up costing me $5 could keep them going. And interesting, bubbles was frequently one of the things that I would drop in there.
Brittany: 09:27 Absolutely. It’s hard though, as a parent, it really is. It’s hard when you – because I think all parents want to give their children more than what they had. I think that’s, you know, a goal of all parents. And a lot of times it’s really easy to get caught up in the idea that giving our kids more than what we had means buying them more or providing them with more when really what the kids want is more of our time. More of those things are actually free and actually really easy to give, but we just oftentimes overlook them. So that’s hard and it is, especially in the age of social media and comparing ourselves to other parents and seeing what they’re able to give their children, it is a hard thing to remember but I definitely actively try to remember.
Steve: 10:20 I love Brit’s advice to keep it simple. I’m heading out in a week or so for a visit with my 14 and 9 year old grandkids and I’m going to be sure to focus on catching as many joy filled moments as I possibly can. Here’s wishing the same for you.
Steve [Outro]: 10:43 Thanks for listening in folks. I’d love to hear what you’re pondering. You can find me on twitter @stevebarkley or send me your questions and find my videos and blogs at barkleypd.com.