Morgan Park Academy’s 2014-2015 Parent Education Series concluded April 8 with a workshop centered on Aaron Cooper and Eric Keitel’s book I Just Want My Kids to Be Happy, led by Director of Student Support Services Kari Misulonas.


Parents and faculty members joined our wellness team as we focused on how parents are setting up their children for major disappointment if they focus too much on ensuring their “happiness.”


Why are millions of parents pledging their allegiance to this happiness creed, yet children are less happy than ever? What should parents promote instead? After 30 years of research, Cooper and Keitel advocate a child-rearing approach that depicts parents as gardeners, planting the right seeds and cultivating a nutrient-rich soil so that their children’s lives can bloom into gardens of authentic happiness.


The eight “seeds” that best predict content, thriving lives for children are good health, meaningful lives, closeness, loving kindness, imparting gratitude, spirituality, optimism, and gratifying pursuits.


Parents need to plant these seeds in their children’s lives, but the seeds also need a soil rich in nutrients in order to grow. Our home environment and parent-child interactions foster this growth. Focusing on building connectedness, cherishing play, practice and mastery, offering recognition, and self-control will provide the richest soil of all.


And yes, character counts! What we do today to shape children’s character and lives will lead to authentic happiness for all present and future generations.


Previous events in this year’s Parent Education Series included a workshop on cyberbullying in our modern age of digital communication and social media by Carrie Goldman, the award-winning author of Bullied: What Every Parent, Teacher, and Kid Needs to Know About Ending the Cycle of Fear; and a discussion of teen substance abuse awareness and prevention led by Rachel Ridge, a licensed clinical social worker and certified alcohol and drug counselor with Rosecrance Health Network.