Child rearing is one of the most essential jobs most of us will ever have. While schools and training courses teach us job and career skills, most of us rely upon “on the job” training when it come to parenting. That training likely started under our parents’ tutelage; we know what they did right and what they did that we will never do.
All of us could benefit from some expert advice now and then.
Every stage of childhood has its different and specific challenges. There are, however, certain tips and tools that can be applied to no matter how old your children are. Here are some helpful tips that FCA uses in its parenting classes. They not only can help parents; most can be applied to every aspect of life.
Take care of yourself first and you’ll take better care of others As an airplane crew prepares for takeoff, we’re instructed to put on our air mask before helping those in need of assistance. The same suggestion applies to parents and caregivers. Make time for yourself, even if it’s just a half hour with your coffee in the morning. But do try to get a little more time for yourself doing something you enjoy.
Play and laugh with your children Laughter is good for our physical and mental health. When we play and laugh with our children, it forms a special bond and in-the-moment connection that can reverberate throughout our entire day.
Compliment your kids on the good things they do Compliments are a win-win on the giving and receiving ends. Compliments build self-esteem, help kids understand what is expected of them and let them know that other people can look up to them.
Let your kids be kids Childhood is short, and the demands of adulthood come on quickly. Help preserve your children’s sense of wonder and exploration. Let them be silly, clumsy, cry when they’re scared, and make mistakes. Life is a learning experience.
Admit your mistakes and say you’re sorry Kids fear failure and want to do the right thing, just like us. If their parents can admit to a mistake and apologize, mistakes can be used to teach lessons in a positive way. After all, we are human, not superhuman.
Turn off the TV While a weekly family night in front of the TV can be fun, informative and bonding, too much TV interferes with family interaction, a child’s natural inclination to self-amuse and discover and become a battleground when a parent tries to limit TV watching.
Set clear boundaries and expectations for your children We can’t be successful in our jobs if we do not receive direction as to what is expected of us. The same goes for our children. If a rule is non-negotiable, be consistent and firm.
Waffling on boundaries and expectations is an open invitation to push back. This doesn’t mean you can’t change your mind if you come to realize that a boundary or expectation is unreasonable. Remember, you can admit to a mistake.
Meet your children’s friends and their parents It’s important to get to know the parents of your children’s friends. There will inevitably come a time when your child will want to stay over or attend a party.
You’ll want to know that the other parents will appropriately supervise the activity. Even with a simple play date for younger kids, it’s well worth the extra effort to know your child is in a safe and supervised environment.
Accept that you don’t have to be perfect, just be real Our kids may think we’re perfect, and have the answers to everything, but that stage doesn’t last very long.
If perfection is a goal, no one is ever going to measure up. Being real, making and learning from mistakes, having questions, and sometimes feeling overwhelmed is human, and helps our kids understand that they’re not expected to be perfect either.
Trust your instincts We don’t always have time to consult with the experts, our friends or family. Trust your instincts and listen to your gut.
Ask for help when you need it Meeting the needs of our children is a full time job, often in addition to work outside the home and other outside factors. No one is up to every task and no one has all the answers. Seek help from family, friends, and your community.
FCA’s Family Support team provides vital services to children and families who are vulnerable and at risk, homeless or struggling with a host of difficulties including chemical dependency, mental health trauma or lack of resources. Our services are centered around improving communication to facilitate mutual respect, encouragement, and problem solving between parents and their children/teenagers. To learn more visit the FCA website or FCA family support or call 516-485-4289 Ext. 1223.
Erica Schifano, LCSW, CASAC-T is the assistant vice president, Family Support at FCA.