Ms. Perline gathers the kindergartners in her class for the morning meeting. As the children settle into a circle, she asks them to share their ideas on how to finish the sentence, "Happiness is ..." Hands shoot up and the teacher hurriedly records their ideas in turn. "Happiness is being with my Mom and Dad." "Happiness is sitting next to my friend!" "Happiness is climbing." Want to know what makes your kindergartner happy? Just ask! Older kindergartners are very clear about what they think.
One of the most exciting developmental changes that occurs during kindergarten is your child's increased ability to express her opinions and ideas. At this point in the year, her language abilities have grown by leaps and bounds. This is partly due to her larger vocabulary and elevated ability to communicate, but it's also because she is more comfortable expressing herself in a group. Children in the end of their kindergarten year have learned to think for themselves and value their own opinions.
In reading the happiness statements above, you may notice that the two main ingredients to happiness in 5 and 6 year olds are relationships and accomplishments. While children may love to get a new bike or toy, happiness that really lasts is based on the relationships children share with family, friends, and you. Your child is at a stage of development where interactions with others bring enjoyment to everything she does. The ability to share a toy, activity, or thought with a trusted friend or family member brings your child a sense of pure joy, comfort, and safety.
One way children look at friendships is through the viewpoint of fairness. At this stage, your child is heavily invested in a sense of justice. It's extra important to your child that others "play fair." In fact, a sense of fairness in friendships and activities is essential to kindergarten happiness! Fairness to your child mostly means that everyone should play by the same rules and be treated equally. You may have noticed that your young child is very aware when things feel fair (or especially unfair) to her but not as aware when others feel things are unfair. This is quite normal. Children in the early elementary years are very self-focused. Kindergartners still see the world in relation to their needs, but they are also quite capable of learning empathy and fair play.
Accomplishments are another factor in kindergartners' feelings of happiness. The "I can do it" factor in any of your child's activities is high. She wants to show what she can do and often wants to be "first" or the "winner." This sense of accomplishment goes to the root of feeling like a contributing and accepted member of the classroom or home. The happiness of being seen and appreciated is what many people want in life!