Happy childhood is a myth

Which is the happiest age for human being? I did some googling and the most significant results shows that happiness curve seems to be u-shaped. In these graphs human life is at its worst around 40 years of age. But, these charts start from around age 15-16 so they really say nothing about childhood.

Still, most of us have probably heard talks about happy childhood. Idealized pictures of happy kids, maybe. Life with children may not seem so perfect in today’s talks, but problems related to running a family are seen as adults’ problems, and kids don’t have to worry about them. That’s how it’s supposed to be, children don’t have to worry about every problem. But does that necessarily mean that kids are happy and even the more important question, should they be happy?

Let me paint a mental picture of certain kid. He is doing ok in the sense that nothing is particularly wrong. School mornings are tiresome, homework is usually doable but feels boring. Maybe he has some hobby, which requires going to training couple times a week. Does he feel happy? Probably not that much. After all, he is doing on daily basis things that someone else has designed for him. He may have chose the hobby himself (not necessarily even that), but training schedules are off his hands.

What about school then? A reasonable kid understands that school is useful for his future, but the payoff is years away. If we compare that to adult who goes to work: An adult can tell himself that he is waking up early to get money, and that payday is less than month away! So we expect kids to motivate themselves with things that are years away, time period that is more than their age. Would you be motivated every day, if you had 100 years for the next payday? I’d say that it’s harder for kids to motivate themselves through daily necessities.

Adults may have stress to keep things together and make a living and yes, that can be really stressful sometimes. But they have couple things to make life easier for them: First, adults can usually make adjustments and chooses of where to live and other chooses of money usage. They can even affect to people living in same household, at least you don’t have to keep a spouse if he/she is causing much trouble. If you are a child and for example brother or sister is harmful to you, you still have to live with your siblings.

I don’t mean that childhood is miserable. In somewhat normal cases it’s not.

My point is that children should be informed that there is no pressure to have a happy childhood. And that it’s perfectly normal to be happier as an adult than as a child.

Even if parent remembers mostly happy things from his/her own childhood, that is no reason to leave this information untold. Humans’ memory is not that good and can distort things. Even if the parent has the clearest memory imaginable and remembers his/her childhood was happy, there is notable possibility that child has got different kind of personality and sees this differently. This is no matter of parent(s) being good or bad, just that sole information can make child feeling better.