Tuesday, August 28, 2018

How To Raise Happy and Healthy Children ♥

From the moment you see two blue lines on your first pregnancy test, most people aspire to be good parents. We want our kids to be happy, healthy and well adjusted, and we dream of a picture-perfect family unit. The Willow Tree figurines collection shows intimate family groups which are nurturing and loving, but recreating these images in our own homes isn’t always that easy.

Want to raise your kids to be as happy and healthy as possible? If you want to create a loving and nurturing environment for your children (turning your home into a real-life Willow Tree figurines scene) then here are some of my tips - all learned from my experience of being a mother to two little boys.

Live in the Moment
As adults, we spend our days constantly worrying about the future. Should we move to a better school district? Is it time to switch career or go for that promotion? Children, however, prefer to live in the moment. Pre-school aged children, in particular, struggle to think about the future at all: the concept of tomorrow doesn’t really interest them. To get onto your child’s level and encourage them to interact with you, you need to learn to live in the moment too.

Living in the moment is much easier said than done, so start small and dedicate a certain amount of time each day where you do nothing but focus on being with your children. Put your phone and your laptop to one side (something I as a parent need to do much more often). Worry about preparing dinner later. Ask your kids what they want to do and then do it: you’ll be amazed at how inventive their ideas of fun are, and you could find yourself building a Lego tower, creating a sculpture from the contents of your recycling bin or going on a treasure hunt around the garden.

You should also apply this ‘live in the moment’ principle to your communication with your small children. Give them instructions as you need them to complete them, rather than a long list of jobs you would like them to complete at some time in the future. You will both understand either other better, and there will be less tension in your everyday interactions with each other.

Talk About Emotions
Children of all ages are melting pots of emotions that often manifest themselves in different ways (such as tantrums or emotional outbursts). One of the best ways that you can help them to deal with this, and grow into emotionally rounded individuals, is to talk to them about their emotions.

Younger children often lack the vocabulary to express their variances of emotion and therefore can’t share what they are feeling. You can help your child by talking to them about their emotions, and your own, sharing the words they need for different feelings and letting them know it is ok to express these emotions. Having an adult role model they trust to talk about their fears and frustrations will help your children to developed an appropriate level of emotional intelligence, which will serve them well as they enter adulthood. 

Slow Down
Do you have a busy life where you’re always rushing from A to B? Do you go from work to your hobbies and social events day after day without ever taking time out to breath? This pace of life may suit you, but it certainly isn’t a good pace for children. Children thrive more at a much slower pace of life. They need downtime and happy memories are formed when the relaxed pace of childhood is being enjoyed: the journey is part of the adventure.

Why not try slowing down the pace of your life to match the preferred pace of your children? It might not always be easy, but scheduling extra time in your day for the little things (such as an extra bedtime story or letting your children take a few extra minutes to put on their own shoes rather that letting you do it for them). By allowing more time to enjoy them together, even the most boring of chores can be turned into a meaningful bonding experience. And it is this time spent with you that will make your children happiest of all.

Manners Cost Nothing
Want to raise your children to be well mannered and polite? Then you need to model good manners yourself, so that they can observe and learn that desired behaviour from you. The way that children interact with each other, and with other adults they meet, will largely be influenced by the ways in which they see you interact with others. If you’re brisk and rude with waitresses when you’re out for dinner, for example, then your children will think that this is normal behaviour and that this is how they should behave when they go to a restaurant.

You should already treat everyone you meet with kindness and respect, but if you don’t then now is the perfect time to think about how your manners will appear to your children. If you wouldn’t like to see them reflecting your behaviour, then now is the perfect time to modify it.

Keep Your Voice Down
We all know how important it is not to yell at our toddlers, because they may choose to replicate the angry behaviour that we are showing them. However when those toddlers grow into (ridiculously frustrating) teenagers, the ‘no yelling’ rule goes straight out of the window. However, it is just as important to keep your cool and avoid yelling at your teens whenever possible too.

According to a study published in the Journal of Child Development, the more you yell at your teen, the worse they are likely to behave. Instead keep the lines of communication open with your teen and try to keep your cool: even when they’re behaving in an infuriating way. Clearly let them know when you are disappointed in their behaviour and explain why. Share your own frustrations and ask them to acknowledge the importance of your thoughts and feelings. By thinking about their negative behaviours in this way, your teen is less likely to repeat them again.

Encourage Friendships
You are never going to like all your children’s friends, particularly as they enter their pre-teen and teenage years. In fact, many aspects of teenage friendship can be completely baffling when viewed through grown up eyes. But your children’s friendships are important and should be encouraged wherever possible. Learning how to make friends is vital for a child’s development, and the social skills they practice now will set them up to continue making friends in the future.

Friendships between children allow them to learn new skills and new interaction techniques in a warm and safe setting where they will experience very little judging. Young children tend to be more accepting of the quirks and differences on their peers than older children and adults, which means that learning how to make friendships at an early age will stand them in good stead for the rest of their lives. Friends help children to learn skills like negotiating, compromising and group planning, and all of these skills will be essential in the workplace, and in navigating the world as a successful adult.

Dads: Get Involved
Finally, a note about just how important it is for children to have both parents actively involved in their upbringing, wherever possible. The stereotype of the bubbling dad who doesn’t know how to carry the baby or change nappies endures - sadly even in today's evolved society, but dads can be just as good at parenting as mums (or even better in some cases!) and they should put as much effort into honing their parenting skills and being actively involved in raising their offspring.

One of the proven benefits of being an active dad is that dads tend to play rougher with their kids (and I know this is definitely the case in our house!). Rough and tumble, and this kind of active play helps kids learn how to control their bodies and emotions. Playing with a father or other male role model in this hands-on way also encourages healthy risk-taking, which can influence a child's ambitions in the long-term. What’s more, children that grow up with the involvement of a strong male role model are more likely to grow up to become good role models themselves.

Parenting can be such a rollercoaster of emotions and a mine field when it comes to trying to work out what is best for our children. It's not an easy vocation at all and is sometimes a very thankless one at that, but by doing the best we possibly can for our children, we are raising them to be happy and healthy in life and these are the most important things we can instill into our children.
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