Happiness: What Every Child Deserves

Four children smile 1

I’m blogging. I feel younger already. My children will be so impressed. It took me a while to get comfortable with this idea. I’m 62. I didn’t even want to go on Facebook—my staff had to convince me to join. Now, of course, I have 297 friends and find myself getting caught up in all of my FB family drama.

I have spent my life raising children. I’ve raised five of my own, and they would probably tell you they have always had to share me with the kids at work. I’ve dedicated my entire 40-year career to mastering the science of child and family development, reading most of the books and going to countless trainings. But the most important lesson I’ve learned—and tried to teach—is such a simple one. It’s something I’ve been thinking a lot about lately. Every child is entitled to happiness.

A group of children helped by NCCFI remember doing a presentation once on helping children with their anger. I said something like, “We all want our children to be happy.” And there was a woman who stood up and said, “No, I don’t. I want my child to do well in school and succeed.”

In my world, a world where children come first, happiness is a gift that every child is supposed to receive. It doesn’t matter where they live or what their circumstances are. Happiness doesn’t have to cost anything. Children want the very small things, like their parents’ time. They want to go for a walk in the park and play on the same swings they played on yesterday and the day before. They want to run up and down the aisle in church when they’re not supposed to. They want to blow bubbles and have you catch them, or make you a cupcake and sit with you while you eat it.

Every day, I work with young people who have suffered in ways nobody should ever have to suffer. For them, sometimes happiness is simply surviving it all. And it’s our job to help them survive it—the abuse, the neglect, the poverty, the trauma. A former client, who is now in his 30s, told us that the first time he remembers being happy was when he was four years old and he got to sit in Santa’s lap. He was homeless then, living in our Greentree Shelter, and he was able to find childhood happiness.

Children can be happy even when they’re angry or irritable, when they’re jumping up and down saying “no,” defying you, driving you crazy. They can still be happy in those moments as long as they feel safe and cared about. One young girl painted a picture for me and I put it on the wall in my office. She came into visit once and started crying. I asked her why she was crying. She said, “You put it on your wall.” I told her, “It’s beautiful—of course I put it on my wall.” I knew in that moment that her mother had never put her pictures on the refrigerator or hung them in the house. And here she was, 16, crying, simply because I had.

Childhood happiness is important—in fact, it’s the most important thing of all.


Dr. Sheryl Brissett Chapman

Dr. Sheryl Brissett Chapman, Ed.D., ACSW, Executive Director, provides agency administrative oversight, consultative support for all programs, and ensures overall contract and program compliance. Dr. Chapman has more than 40 years of experience supervising national, state and local human services programs, and is an expert on child and family welfare and child protection.


  1. Jan Smith | March 23, 2012 at 4:15 pm

    Hi Dr. Chapman!

    I have the joy/pleasure of working with Jackie Wynn on special, creative projects. (Love her!!)

    I saw that she replied to your LinkedIn question today…and I wanted to reply as well!

    First of all…you go, girl!!! Blogging = Bliss!! At any age!

    The work you do and the life you lead are so important…and now that you are reaching out via your blog, more people will be touched by your perspective and your insights into a myriad of personal and professional subjects!

    Through your blog, you will touch the hearts and minds of people you’ve never met…making this such an elegant way to share your many gifts with others!

    I wish continued success and a life full of love and joyous experiences!

    Warmest regards,

    Jan S. Smith, Ph.D.
    Creative Director and Managing Partner
    Bestlight Creative

  2. Sheryl Brissett Chapman | March 31, 2012 at 1:10 am

    Jan, you inspire me! Thanks so very much for the encouragement. I have interesting conversations with my NCCF colleagues all of the time, and they actually have propelled me to blog LOL! So this is letting folks into the ongoing exchanges we have here at NCCF…..and our shared mission does so powerfully integrate personal and professional perspectives. Again, thank you, Sheryl

  3. Ishmail Siddra Mansaray | April 15, 2012 at 4:07 pm

    You are translating the words of CAROL BELLAMY in to reality, former Executive Director of UNICEF “our children:….are loved and cherised, where their health and safety is paramount, where they can indulge their boundless energy in a just a peaceful and sustainable environment, and where they have every opportunity to become caring and responsible citizens

  4. Ishmail Siddra Mansaray | April 15, 2012 at 5:49 pm

    Dear Dr Chapman,
    Your diligent effort of twenty years leading the National Center for Children and Family is regarded as a strong bridge to the “Birth and Broken Promises involving children by their parents”. As a father of two I reflected on the on the kind of excitement, joy and optimism that a new baby brings to his or her family. Parents set aside their fears and doubts about the future, their anxieties about family health and survival.
    However, due to the operation of national societies and the global economy, children have suffered because of their parents’ poverty and their health has suffered through lack of food or shelter. Your calling to stand up for the rights of children to food and shelter is adorable. NCCF success story is a great inspiration to me,….personally and professionaly.

  5. Sheryl Brissett Chapman | April 23, 2012 at 11:04 pm

    Ishmail, your remarks are so gratifying, and I am honored to be compared to Carol Bellamy. If you read my recent blog on Homeless Children (4/23/12) you’ll see that I am trying to make much more visible the poverty of so many children in this powerful, affluent region. It is simply wrong for our society not to embrace the value of those children born into poverty. It is wrong.


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