As a parent myself, I know how scary the world seems at the moment for our children. Whether it’s bullying through any and all it’s various forms, fear over exam results and failure or other mental health related issues – I think the challenges our society holds for the next generation are tricky ones.
The one thing we all wish for as parents is for our children to be happy. Easier perhaps said rather than done. However what if there were things we could be doing which could help them learn the skills, confidence, self-esteem and resilience to face these challenges head on and be happier children?
For them to be happy, we need to be happy too
Our children are sponges for information. They very much replicate what they see around them and learn from their experiences. So if we’re not happy and showing them how to be happy, how can we expect them to learn this skill and show it?
I’d urge any parent to think more carefully about the words they use to describe themselves, how they talk about their life, their job, their feelings. How much time do you spend showing your own happiness to your child, sharing what makes you happy, what you enjoy, what lights you up? Do you share the good things about your day? Do you share with them the things they do which make you happy?
Express gratitude every day
You’ve no doubt been teaching them to say “Please” and “Thank you” since the first moments they could communicate, even before they could say the words – so don’t stop now. Try not to miss an opportunity to thank you child. Positive reinforcement is incredibly powerful and being thanked makes us feel noticed, appreciated and respected. It helps to build our self-esteem and confidence and we are more likely to repeat the behaviour if we got thanked along the way.
Also don’t just thank the big things, all the small things count. You could even spend a couple of moments at the end of the day as part of their bedtime routine saying the things you have appreciated during the day and ask them to try and do the same.
What has been good about your day together and apart? What are you thankful for – big and small remember.
Journal about your child’s day
Journaling has become a big thing in recent years, but this is a different way of using the technique. How about you journal with your child, focusing on the things they’ve learned today, the questions they’ve asked, taking note of the first time they tried something new, a new friend they’ve made, something they enjoyed today. Help them to live in the moment and appreciate what happens every day. Help to teach mindfulness from the earliest point whilst also getting to explore what’s happening in their world in a non-threatening and fun way.
You could doodle, draw pictures, write words or take photos – help your child to make it their story, told their way.
You can also make note of things they’d like to learn more about, things they’re worried about – whatever comes up in discussion.
Say some positive affirmations every day
Stay with me on this one. Sometimes it’s really hard to praise ourselves, we’re generally not very good at it.
You may not have come across them before but affirmations are positive statements which can help you to challenge and overcome negative thoughts. The trick is to repeat them often to yourself and believe in them and this will start to help you make positive changes and feel less stressed.
By using affirmations, we’re taking the pressure off ourselves and yet still achieving that same positive feeling.
How about some of these to share every day with your children to get you started:
- I am loved
- I am kind
- I am friendly
- I play well with others
- I can do it
- Every problem has an answer
- I love myself for trying, even if I fail sometimes
- Whatever I do, I give my best
- I am unique
- I can be whatever I want to be
- I have a beautiful imagination
- I am caring
- I am confident
- I am gentle with myself and others
- I enjoy learning new things
- I forgive others for their mistakes
- I see the good in everyone
- I get better and better every day
- My family and friends love me for who I am
- I am amazing
- I keep my body healthy
- I enjoy healthy food
- I enjoy trying new foods
- I am important
- I enjoy being happy
- I learn from my mistakes
- I am happy being me
- I believe in myself
- I believe in my dreams
Why not get them to create their own? Spend a minute each day choosing one or two or coming up with your own ones special to you and your family.
Sing, dance and be silly
Children aren’t children for long. Blink and it seems as though they’ve suddenly become little adults – so don’t miss an opportunity to sing, dance or be silly. Throwing yourself into those moments creates an amazing bond between you and your child.
They don’t care if you can’t sing or don’t know the words, they aren’t going to mind how you dance as long as they’re having fun and as for being silly – it won’t be long before they are a teenager and those silly moments have gone. The more fun they have the more fun they will find and they’ll want to share it with you.
As an adult we suddenly stop thinking it’s ok to randomly sing songs or make up the words, we don’t dance around because we don’t want to be judged and as for being silly – we’re grownups!
Embrace your inner child and the childhood in front of your eyes and give it a go.
Go forth and explore
The world is an amazing, exciting and sometimes daunting place. So go and explore it with your children. Help them learn about all the things around them, the good and the more challenging. The more they see, the more they explore, the more questions they ask, the closer they feel to you and the firmer those foundations are within them to know they are loved and appreciated.
Whether it’s going on a nature walk, finding shells on a beach, exploring the streets around where you live or what they can find in the garden, open their minds and their hearts will be filled with joy too.
Live in the moment
It’s too easy to worry about tomorrow, next week, the weekend, the things we need to get done, money, Christmas, holidays – the list is endless.
Our children however aren’t programmed to worry about these things from the beginning, they live in the moment, that exact moment, what they want to do right now. Live it with them. We know from experience those other things will still have to happen, but do they need our focus right now?
What do we miss by not being in the moment? If you’re out for a walk and you get home having spent the whole time worrying about something else, you’ve missed the chance to explore, learn, giggle and enjoy that time together – so take a lesson from your children and live every moment as though it’s the most exciting time.