Once your children enter the world, they immediately become the sun that your whole solar system revolves around – for the rest of your life. Any phone call, regardless of the time, sets a flash of anxiety coursing through your body in anticipation of bad news; you go to sleep worrying about them and wake up thinking of them; any good news or exciting happenings make you want to be with them to share the joy – basically, their entire being consumes you (or, at least, that’s how it can feel sometimes).
With the world’s opinions more freely on blast than ever, it can be easy to feel like you aren’t doing the best for your children, even though this is rarely ever the case – parenting is a hard, often thankless job and most of us are just doing our best to make it through the day with everyone and everything intact. The most important thing in parenting – aside from ensuring your child’s basic needs are met – is to be authentic with your children. We often make the mistake of believing that they are ‘too young’ to hear about certain truths and concepts, but this lack of authenticity and honesty can lead to these children becoming adults that believe in hiding parts of themselves away, who believe that imperfections and mistakes should be resigned to the dark.
If you want to ensure that you are raising empowered, mindful children, have a look at the collection of ideas we’ve gathered below.
Be Bold with Your Dreams
During the 80s and 90s, parents and teachers pushed the notion that ‘anything is possible’ if you just work hard enough. In many cases, this failed to prepare the millennial generation for the hardships that were to follow, such as the global recession, declining job prospects, and high rates of unemployment – the latter of which was exacerbated by the constant rhetoric of ‘aim high’ and the criticism of jobs within industries such as the service industry.
Now, we aren’t advocating that you suddenly start telling your children to be more realistic with their hopes and dreams. What we are saying is that it’s important to model and discuss all of the options available, and the individual benefits of those. Some people don’t want a full-blown, high-flying career, and it’s important that your children know this is a valid option. It’s also vital to make your children aware that they can change their minds about what they want at any stage in life – there should be no barriers inhibiting them from remolding their lives. So, if you’re stuck in a job that you are no longer enjoying or gaining satisfaction from, why not rethink your options? There are plenty of online courses you can take to speedily retrain and specialize in a new job, such as the ones that can be found here.
If you yourself are bold with your dreams, and openly discuss the possibilities in front of your children, you’re demonstrating that life is mutable. You’re showing them that, at any point in life, they can reconsider their lives and change the trajectory by retraining or pursuing a different path.
Talk it Out
Mental health has become a key focus of many in the past decade, with more and more emphasis upon being kind to yourself, opening up to others, and being real about your problems and about time, too. Unlike generations past, modern parents have begun to recognize the importance of being authentic with their children, with admitting that things are difficult.
Teaching children to be open and honest about their thoughts, feelings, and difficulties is essential, as it helps them to build a better understanding of themselves and the world around them, while also teaching them the skill of emotional regulation. This extends to explaining your choices and decisions – if you’re telling your child off for being rude, explain why it was rude and what the consequences of that are. Communication is key.
This point aligns closely with the previous one. Not only is it important to share your innermost thoughts and feelings, it’s also important to listen to others in an empathetic and non-judgmental manner. Model looking at situations from another perspective and considering other people’s feelings and experiences through discussion, rather than instantly reacting or dismissing.
This helps to teach your children that everyone is valid, everyone’s experience is valid, and there should be space held for everyone, no matter who they are.
A Good Balance
Life is full of ups-and-downs. Only focusing and highlighting the ‘ups’ creates a culture of shame around the ‘downs’, because it instils the damaging notion that nothing short of perfection is allowed. This can lead to uncertainty, anxiety, and emotional dysregulation.
Instead, children would benefit much more from being aware of the ways in which life can be both good and bad, and being taught how to effectively communicate both elements to others. Everyone in the world makes mistakes and, in many cases, these mistakes are learning tools, building resilience and determination – they are integral to life and learning. If you never experience the opportunity to get stuck, you will never learn how to find your way back out again.
In short, balancing negativity and positivity – and owning both – can help your children to recognize the necessity of both in life and, as a result, embrace them.
Embrace Your Weird
We are all individuals, with our own loves, likes and pet peeves. But our collective need to appear perfect and normal to ‘fit in’ means that many of us hide our true selves from the world, that we dim the unique ways in which we shine to become less.
If you show your children that there is boundless joy in being unapologetically yourself and embracing your weird – whether that includes singing in silly voices, random dance parties in the kitchen, or talking absolute nonsense – they are more likely to feel comfortable in being their authentic self.
Raising children can be a veritable minefield and can feel daunting. But if you practice honesty and authenticity with your child in an open way, and enjoy the ride you’re taking together, you can’t go wrong.