After having counseled children and families for nearly 20 years. I have found there is one thing that all parents have in common: they want to raise a happy and healthy child.
So, what will make your child happy and healthy? If you watch T.V., then it would be materialistic stuff. But, what I have found is what children really want is your time. As they get older and look back on life, they will remember the time they spent with you the most.
What stops you from spending time with your children? Work, your cell phone, drama with friends and family? I'm sure there is more. This means that you need to prioritize your family. Yes, you need to put family time on the calendar.
Start by asking your child, how there day was? If they give the standard answer of, 'Good.' Then, get specific. Ask what was good about it? Ask what was bad about it? Ask what games they played at recess? Come up with some questions that you know they can answer. Now, you are off to a good start.
Here are 6 tips for raising a happy and healthy child:
- Touch your child. As a society, we are getting away from touch. This is how we connect as human beings. Hold your child. Don't buy into letting them cry it out. This will make your child feel alone and insecure. As they get older, dance and play with your children. They will remember these times the most.
- Cultivate a culture of gratitude. Identify what you are grateful for. Start with the simple things, like a roof over your head and a warm bed to sleep in. This will help foster a culture of gratitude in the family. Your child learns from what you do and say. When you foster an attitude of gratefulness, this helps create compassion and hope. Keep a gratefulness chart on the refrigerator with some fun markers. Make it easy for your child to reach. This way they can write or draw it when they feel grateful, and everyone can see it.
- Sing to your child. They love to hear your voice. Don't worry about how you sound, just sing. You can sing your child's name or favorite song. I love to watch how their eyes light up when you sing to them. When children are young they will naturally hum a song. The next time your child does this, sing along with them. This is a great way to connect with your child.
- Relish the, "Mess," together. I will admit this a hard one for me. But, you miss moments of joy with your child when you worry too much about the mess. Ten years from now the mess won't matter. They grow up so quickly, you really don't want to miss out. Stop worrying about what your friends and family will think. What's important is what your child thinks, and that you have an emotional connection with them. When they grow up they won't remember the mess, they will remember you.
- Add positive affirmations to your daily routine. Remember, your child is trying to find his/her place in the world. This is not always easy. There are many adults that are still trying to find themselves in the world. Affirm the positive choices your child makes. This is how they learn to navigate in the world they live in. You can do this with words or body language. A simple smile will let them know they approve of your choices. Be open to your child's ideas, and let them try new things. Children love to think out loud. Make sure to support this. It will help with creativity.
- Explore the world together. Take time each week to learn something new about your child. Take a cooking class with your child, or a dance class. Don't worry about how you look. This will help level the playing field. Your child will see that you have the same struggles that they have. Your child will also be able to relate to you, and see that you have struggles and triumphs in life. It will also let your child know, that you don't have to be perfect.
It's important to remember, that all good parents make mistakes. Even parents with the best of intentions. What's important is that you repair and learn from them. This will help teach your child that it is alright to make mistakes.
Try not to get stuck in the past, or worry extensively about the future. You can't go back and you can't predict the future. What does this mean? Stay in the present and enjoy the time you have with your family.
Lianne Avila is a Marriage & Family Therapist, helping families in San Mateo, CA who are wanting to build an emotional connection with their children. Please subscribe to Lianne's newsletter on www.LessonsforLove.com to learn more about her services and expertise.