Thankfully it seems as if most babies are born happy. As they get older, however, and start dipping their toes into real life a bit more deeply, they unfortunately realize that everything isn’t always about soft teddy bears and bottles of warm milk.
As kids approach their teen years, life gets infinitely more complicated. Friends, romantic relationships, body image, money issues, sex, drugs, college admissions and party invitations, to name a few, can all lead to lots of happiness, and even more complications and heartache.
Here are 10 things you should talk to your kids about in an effort to help guide them to as much happiness as their precious hearts deserve:
There is strength in loneliness 1 of 10By definition, loneliness will never feel good, and often it might just about wreck you from the inside out. But experiencing it from time to time will also help you realize it won't kill you, either.
Sometimes it takes a little solitude to appreciate the company you do have in your life, and to understand that the feeling of desolation won't actually last forever. Gaining the understanding that you're at least capable of being by yourself — and surviving — allows you to bring more to your relationship with others.
Most people who make you chase them aren’t worth catching 2 of 10This applies to friends, romantic interests and even colleges and jobs. It's one thing to put the best version of yourself out there to attract others to you, but if you find that you have to work overtime or pretend to be someone you're not in order to nail down a date, invitation or acceptance letter, it's most likely not where you'll find the most contentment in the long run.
Love isn’t the answer and it doesn’t solve everything 3 of 10Love is lovely and can make you feel safe, secure and wanted. But it can also be maddening, isolating and often cause more problems than it solves.
It's one thing to seek love with hope and promise in your heart, it's a whole other thing to expect your life will do a 180 for the better if you find it.
It’s OK to let yourself feel vulnerable on occasion 4 of 10Feeling defenseless is not something to which most people strive. But it can be hard to get some of the sweetest rewards without sometimes taking at least a little risk.
When your heart and head agree that the time is right, go ahead and say "I love you" first. Make a phone call instead of waiting for your cell to ring. Put yourself out there when it feels right, and if it turns out you were wrong, you'll know better the next time.
Tattoos may not be permanent, but they can be permanently embarrassing 5 of 10Tattoos are cheap to go on and expensive to come off. You might have a meaningful design in mind, but what's important to you at this moment in your life might not be a few years from now.
And while, yes, you are encouraged to be an individual and not worry about what other people think of you, you should actually think twice about the message that a prominent tattoo could send to future employers, spouses, friends, schools and even your own offspring.
The outside of your body deserves just as much consideration and respect as the inside.
Being popular now isn’t a predictor of success later 6 of 10Sometimes it feels like the most important thing that can ever happen to you is that others will perceive you as popular. However, instead of pouring your energy into ensuring everyone likes you at this very moment, keep in mind that how most kids your age achieve popularity is in direct contrast to how successful people find happiness, wealth and love when they're older.
Being kind, working hard and acting like the best version of yourself might not get you a seat at the cool table in the cafeteria, but it will be an exceptional way to meet the other people at the other tables who'll you'll most likely want to know when you're grown up.
No one expects or wants you to be perfect 7 of 10Strive to be the best you can be, but don't come unglued if you fall short of your expectations or anyone else's. There is no magic bell that rings when you ace a test or win first prize in an athletic contest or look a certain way in your jeans.
Being — and staying — perfect is more trouble than it's worth.
Shoot for the top but pat yourself on the back no matter where you land.
If you spend your life thinking everything will fall into place if only you were a little thinner, a little smarter or a little more something, you'll likely find that you've wasted your time waiting and wanting instead of living and enjoying.
Sex and drugs are often more trouble than they’re worth 8 of 10Sex is fun, and so are drugs. But often times they're not, or at least they're not worth the momentary fun you'll enjoy.
As much as you might think, know or hear that seemingly everyone enjoys having sex and drinking alcohol, smoking pot or engaging in other behavior that you know could land you in a heap of trouble, you need to understand that sex can also hurt physically and emotionally — either you or your partner — and that the temporary effects of drugs can actually be long-lasting.
There will be plenty of time later to have sex and decide if drugs are the right thing for you. Keep in mind that having sex and doing drugs are the sort of endeavors that require as much thought and commitment as paying a mortgage, holding down a job with a real salary and being responsible in all other areas of your life.
Now's probably not the right moment to thoughtlessly indulge in decisions that could easily affect you for a long time to come.
You’ll surprise yourself when you surprise others 9 of 10Some of the greatest joy you can experience will be when you do something out of the ordinary. Take some time every now and again to do something unexpected for someone unsuspecting.
Whether it's volunteering to help an elderly neighbor take out the trash, offering to play with or help a younger sibling with homework, sitting next to the new kid at lunch or even just reading a book instead of going on Facebook, you might just be surprised at how happy a little effort towards unexpected change will make you.
Your family will always have your back 10 of 10That might not mean much when you're spending Saturday night with your mom and dad instead of the boy or girl who doesn't want to be on a date with you, or at the party where it seems everyone but you was invited.
But knowing there are people who love you always — no matter what you say, wear, or listen to on your iPod — should be the foundation for a happy life.
Not everyone has parents or siblings or other relatives to whom they can turn unconditionally if they get a failing grade, need a ride home because they're too drunk to drive or would like a shoulder to cry on because no one else cares enough.
You have that. You always will. And even if that doesn't mean much to you now, you have the security of knowing you'll still have it if you ever decide you want it.
Photo credits: iStock
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