Quite often we think of our physical selves as vastly different from our mental selves.
‘What do you mean?’ you ask?
Well, we often forget that how we feel and how we interpret events in our lives impacts our behaviour and decision making. Just think about the foods we put in our mouth when we’re upset, whether we exercise if we’ve had a tough day, or if we get enough sleep if we’re stressed.
You see, every part of our body is inter-related.
This is also true for you and your children.
Just as how you think, feel and interpret the daily activities in your life impacts your behaviour, your behaviour in turn directly impacts your children. They look up to you every day for guidance and comfort. What you do, how you act and what you say, impacts directly on their behaviour and who they will grow up to be.
How many times has your toddler fallen on the ground and looked to you for direction on how they should react. If you freak out, chances are they are going to get upset even though their grazed knee didn’t really hurt that much. If you stay calm and say something like ‘uh oh’or ‘oopsy daisy’ with a quick rub/kiss they will get back up again and continue playing.
What we as parents are doing, is teaching our children everything there is to know about their environment and how to respond to it. This will have long lasting and inter-generational effects. It will impact them as teenagers and adults. They will teach their children these values. As the Good Habits for Life campaign says, ‘”when we love life, they will too“.
So, how do we create a well-adjusted, strong, kind and loving family? By teaching the value of empathy, and unconditional love. By showing them how to be resilient and assertive. To develop strong attachments and encourage positive social interactions. And by creating safe and secure surroundings for our family.
Proudly sponsored by ACT Health, Good Habits for Life
Let’s look at each of these in great detail:
The two-part process of developing and showing empathy is pivotal to a well-adjusted child and adult. Empathy is not showing sympathy, it is helping someone through their journey not pitying them. Want to know how to help your child develop empathy? Teach them that others have feelings too – “How would you like it if someone poked you with a stick?” Ask them to rub another child’s back if they fall over. You can demonstrate empathy through telling them that it hurts your feelings when they hit you, for example.
Show them unconditional love in every situation so they know you love them no matter what. Tell them you love the colours they have used in their paintings. Tell them that you’re not angry at them for them drawing all over the wall, but that you wish they drew on paper instead. Thank them for all their help when they pull off all the clean washing after you’ve just hung out to dry.
Empower resilience, confidence and assertiveness in your children
Such crucial skills for children and adults to have; resilience, confidence and assertiveness. Teach your child confidence by giving them positive reinforcement (praise). If you have a shy child, they will need a lot of positive reinforcement. In fact, the majority of children need a lot of positive reinforcement as they grow. You don’t teach resilience, confidence and assertiveness by the traditional ‘toughen up’ approaches such as leaving them to cry when they’re upset. Instead, rub their back, tell them you’re sorry they fell over and they will get back up. Teach your child resilience by allowing them to get frustrated when their blocks fall over and then encouraging them to keep building. Teach your child assertiveness by giving them words to say if another child takes a toy off them or give them the option to choose between two ingredients (usually vegetables) that they don’t like but must eat for dinner.
You can demonstrate all of these qualities by how you react to situations. Feeling frustrated because something has gone wrong is a normal response. Express it, don’t hide it. But know how to express it appropriately i.e. sigh instead of hitting something. The demonstrate resilience and strength by accepting it and moving on.
Build strong attachments
From the first moment your baby is born you will likely have skin-on-skin with them. Later in life, you might safely co-sleep with them, carry them in a sling and continue to breastfeed. But there are other ways to build attachments through other everyday activities. Talk to your baby all the time. Let them ‘help’ you with your chores. Talk your child through what you’re doing. They want to be around you all the time, so let them be involved in what you’re doing.
Encourage positive social interactions
Get out and about. Give your children lots of opportunities to play with older children, younger children, and adults. They will learn from their peers how to interact with others. In most instances, you can let them sort out the rules of their ‘games’ themselves. Step back and look at how they interact. Children are very intelligent and insightful human beings. They will work it out, but only if given the opportunity to do so.
Demonstrate appropriate, positive social interactions by role modelling such behaviours with your friends and loved ones.
Create a safe and secure environment
It is a child’s basic right for them to be raised in a safe and secure environment. Children that aren’t raised in such environments are often very anxious and hyper-vigilant as they never know how to relax. Create a good predictable morning and evening routine i.e. wake up, have breakfast, clean teeth, play with toys; eat dinner, bath, drink milk, clean teeth and bed.
These actions by us parents help create good habits and strong mental health for children for their entire life. They will help empower well-adjusted, happy and secure children and in turn adults. But they aren’t the only qualities. There are many, many more life skills that you will continually teach your child throughout their entire childhood and adult life.
Enjoy each day with your little ones. Interpret life positively. And give your child every opportunity to be the best version of themselves so they can be strong and confident children, adolescents and adults.
If you want more tips and guidance for creating good habits for life, visit ACT Health’s Good Habits for Life.
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