Written by Mallory Middleton, Childhelp National Fund Development Manager
It goes without saying that being a parent is not for the faint of heart. Juggling every day stresses coupled with the responsibility of raising the “perfect” child is enough to make even the steadiest person a bit frazzled. But, we must remember that as parents, we have the power to instill lasting qualities in our children from a young age. While there is no one size fits all guide to raising children, we could all use a little help with parenting here and there.
So, how do we ensure that we’re doing everything we can to create a healthy home environment for our kids?
Be a good role model
A bit of a no brainer, this is something we all strive to do for our little ones. But, it’s not as monumental a task as you may think. Try things like:
• Being affectionate with your spouse in front of your kids to show them what a healthy and loving relationship looks like
• Picking up after yourself and maintaining an orderly living environment demonstrating good practical habits
• Apologizing if the situation calls for it
• Being honest when your children ask questions
• Taking care of your physical health
Praise your children
Recognize your children for a job well done! Knowing that they’ve made you proud will encourage them to continue working hard toward their goals and give them an added sense of accomplishment. Be specific with your praise. Instead of saying “Great job,” try saying “You did a terrific job on your book report, I really loved your take on the books overall theme.”
Also be sure to reinforce good behaviors like sharing, patience, and kindness toward others. While children often innately know which personal qualities are good and bad, they’ll be more likely to carry these positive attributes through to adulthood if they’ve received positive parental feedback along the way.
Teach social responsibility
Teaching children from a young age that they can make a difference in the lives of others is powerful. Far too often we hear scandals on the news about abuse and bullying in schools and it begs the question, if we taught our children to empathize with others would these issues be as prevalent?
Doing well for others also reaps personal benefits for our children. They form new friendships, learn new skills and find fulfillment in seeing how their efforts effect positive change. They’ll also develop important values like kindness, generosity, honesty and respectfulness.
Tip: Take an afternoon to sit down with your child and review local opportunities to give back to the community. You will get the most out of volunteering for organizations that you both relate to and encouraging your children to give back to kids their own age may put their own lives into perspective helping them appreciate the stable and loving home you’ve provided.
Encourage face to face communication
It’s common for parents to become so busy and overtired that they neglect to check in with their children. The result can be a disconnected family and a child who is incapable of expressing themselves in a healthy way. Add in our dependence and slight obsession with technology, which is largely a solo venture, and you’ve got a recipe for poor social skills. Children with underdeveloped social skills are more likely to have issues making friends and performing well in school which is why it’s vital to nurture these skills.
Encourage your family to participate in activities together that don’t involve technology so, phones down everyone (that includes you, mom and dad). Here are some ideas to help get you going:
• Take a long walk
• Explore a new park
• Bake a cake or learn a kid friendly recipe
• Have a water balloon fight
• Camp in the backyard
Another simple activity? Have a sit down meal multiple times a week. According to The Washington Post, regular face time with your children has proven to increase their vocabulary and improve their diets. Perhaps more importantly, regular family meals strongly correlate to positive moods, decreases in risky teenage behaviors (like smoking and drug use) and instill a more positive outlook of their future. Who knew family mealtime could be so important? Find more ideas about how to spend more time with your family here.
Remember, our children look to us to set the example of how they should treat not only others but themselves. Set the right tone early on and watch them blossom into the beautiful people you know they’re destined to become!