A Little Happier: A Strategy That Works with Children Often Works with Adults, and Vice Versa

The more I think about happiness, the more I see that even in the small details of everyday life, little changes can make a big difference.

For instance, I’ve thought a lot about the powers of beginnings and endings — big beginnings, like the beginning of a year, or little beginnings, like the start of a work day.

I’m reminded of something I noticed years ago when my daughter Eliza was still very young. In the summer, she attended a little day “camp,” and after her first day, I braced myself for the usual chaos of dismissal, for that moment when the door opened and a stream of little kids emerged into the hallway while we adults pushed amongst ourselves to try to scoop up the right child.

Instead, I saw that at this program, the grown-ups were directed to line up outside the door. The children sang a goodbye song as they stood in a circle in the classroom. Once the song was over, one by one, the counselors asked a parent which child they were picking up, called the child’s name, and that child came to the door to get a big hug and to leave. The orderliness and deliberateness of this process kept everyone calm and also gave each child a moment of real acknowledgement and transition as the day came to an end. Eliza and I both appreciated this approach.

Little kids thrive when they have calm, orderly moments of transition when they feel acknowledged and cared for. And so do adults. These days, I pay a lot of attention to moments of transition.

I’ve noticed that when something works well in one situation, it often works well in other situations. An approach that works well with little kids often works well with adults; a strategy that helps us deal more effectively with co-workers often helps us deal more effectively with family members.




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