Create a positive environment that fosters the growth and development of all family members. Listen carefully to each child. What is your child really trying to say? Find the meaning behind their words. Look for clues in actions, expressions, and the tone of their voice. Good communication helps children and parents develop confidence and feelings of self-worth. A strong family communicates openly with each other. Focusing on the positive behavior you want your child display rather than focusing on what they are doing wrong.
Research shows that the most successful adults learned from encouragement of their hard work, efforts, and courage to try new things. Younger children benefit from positive feedback. Overemphasizing praise has a reverse effect, causing them to stop taking risks or trying new things, and makes them expect a reward every time they do anything. You can always say: “I am so proud of you for how hard you worked on that picture!”
Tune into each child to gain understanding of their temperament and personality in order to emotionally connect with them. Remember that each child is unique, so you may need individual ways to nurture their growth and development. Special issues such as emotional and physical challenges shape their behavior and require different parenting strategies. Get to know your child so you can better know how to foster their development and growth. Ask them how they feel and what’s important to them. Talk with your children about school, their thoughts, their friends, and their emotions. Show them that it is okay to feel intense emotions. It is okay for them to see you sad, upset, or overwhelmed. When you label and talk about your own emotions, you show them you trust them just as they can trust you. Unconditional acceptance of the feelings your child or youth have during trying times are key to creating a strong bond and that sense of protection. Monitor all online activity of your children and youth to protect them and make sure no strangers are reaching out to connect with them and prey on their loneliness or anxiety during these trying times.
Put the cell phone down more often; especially during important moments like dinner or homework time. Create opportunities to talk with each child directly about how they feel, what’s coming up and how you can support them. It can be as simple as spending time together. Children value the quality of moments not the quantity of moments you spend with them. Get involved with your children. Show interest in their world especially with teenagers. Let them share their favorite music, artist, athlete or interest. This will show that you are willing to understand them and that they are important to you.
Children feel safe and loved when they know what is expected of them and what consequences are when they misbehave. Create a list of Do’s and Don’ts with your children’s input. Be consistent yet flexible. Let the consequences match the action you need to correct. For example, fighting over the television equals loss of TV time.
Take time to nurture yourself – this is an important way to relieve stress. It is also very important for you to make time to be around other adults. Spend time with your partner and friends, even through the phone and various computer programs to see one another, talk and celebrate birthdays and connect with family and friends far away. It is healthy for you to have time alone: to read a book, listen to music, take a walk, for self-care or to pursue other hobbies. Doing too much without adequate sleep and nutrition will just make us worn out and not helpful to anyone. Find a trusted friend, family member or childcare provider to watch your child while you take some time for yourself. Sometimes we just need to slow down.
A short time-out may be useful if your child needs to regain control of their behavior, or if you need to quickly calm yourself before you lose your temper, but using time-in along with or instead of time-out can be beneficial. Instead of sending your child to another room alone after a problem behavior, have them sit with you while they calm down. Listen to them, give them time to understand what they are feeling and to express it to you, then talk about the behavior you want them to do. Use this technique on yourself and see how much better you feel and share this with your children and teens.
Incentives can be effective to overcome a challenge and have a positive impact on your child’s behavior. By focusing on a positive behavior or attitude, you give children the opportunity to succeed over and over again. Avoid overreacting and consider ignoring minor behaviors. Personal expression, such as a teen dying their hair green, may be a natural part of their growth process; tune into your child to understand the motivation and discuss the consequences. Express love and pride for even the smallest accomplishment, change or new attitude expressed by your child.
These emotional expressions have been shown to make real changes in our mental health and to support positive parenting and child development. We benefit in so many ways by releasing pressures and letting go through fun activities alone and with our children. As a result, positive changes occur in our body that have lasting effects on depression, anxiety and fears for parents, children and youth.
If one behavior is a problem, refocus that energy by providing opportunity for a positive action. If your child is throwing rocks, give them a ball to throw instead. Or, guide them to an entirely different activity or conversation. A tantrum over no cartoons might be stopped by dancing to music on the radio. Consider rearranging the child’s space to redirect them into desired actions. If dirty clothes are always thrown in a corner, perhaps the laundry basket can be moved to that corner.
Say out loud to oneself a daily affirmation 21 times: “I am a good student”, “I help my Mom”, “I am a Good Friend” and “I am a Strong and Loving Parent”. Help your children identify their personal affirmations and model by expressing yours. You can do this while eating breakfast, make this a bedtime ritual and do it on your own.
Here are some examples:
- You are Important, Believe It
- Self-love is one of the greatest gifts I can give my child
- I am enough
- I am resilient
- I am the best parent I can be to my child
- We are stronger together
- I believe in me
- I accept myself unconditionally
- I am Strong
- I am loved
- I am brave
- I lead by example
Quiet time for the youngest toddler to address misbehavior can be effective. Create an alliance with your child to calm both of you by closing your eyes and counting to three. Step away from the situation, take a few deep breaths, and refocus on what’s actually bothering you so you can engage in a focused and directed manner. Re-center yourself so you can address what is going on. Use meditation to refocus your thoughts and energy. Play the Parents Anonymous® Meditations or other free apps that can help you to calm and re-center oneself. You and your kids can sit quietly, close your eyes and focus on your breathing. Mindfulness techniques to take in the shapes, colors, smells, sounds and textures of your surroundings can help ground you. Cool off, regain control, and call somebody that you can trust who will hear you out or call the California Parent & Youth Helpline.
Have the whole family gather for a family meeting where everyone can speak freely about their week, their feelings, one thing that makes them happy, and any issues that may need attention. Make sure to establish simple ground rules, such as showing respect and taking turns speaking. Use this time to set a chore schedule, discuss your family rules and plan family outings or celebrations. Thoughtful and caring communication is the key to understanding and respecting one another.
Learning to resolve a problem or address a disappointment with a sibling, friend, neighbor, teacher or coach is an invaluable tool. When problems arise, it is important to know how to deal with both the situation and the emotions surrounding it. Teach your child how to calmly address others to discuss conflicts. Making amends could mean earning the money in extra chores for the item they broke or lost, writing an apology letter to someone for hurting their feelings, or identifying another appropriate way to make amends.
Celebrate your family traditions or create new ones around holidays, birthdays, or daily activities. Spending time with friends and families and hearing their stories create a sense of belonging. When kids are out of school, have them create a school day activity calendar for work, break times, recess and lunch. Family gatherings give families a sense of heritage. Family traditions that can be established could be having meals together and spending one on one quality time with your child. You can also take a walk, dance, tell jokes, make up stories, read bedtime stories and sing out loud with your kids to create positive and nurturing time together. Ask an older child to read a book to you or to their younger brother or sister. You are encouraging their imaginations and building on their strengths. Foster your children’s creativity by having them make up stories, put on a play and create new games for the whole family. Put away the electronics half an hour before bedtime and get to know and appreciate each other.
Build a solid foundation to support each family member, in order to better create and maintain resilience. Being able to bounce back is an important quality. Children need a safe place to express their disappointment, sadness and fears to their parents. A positive attitude is important for both parents and children. Monitor all online activity of your children and youth to protect them and make sure no strangers are reaching out to connect with them and prey on their loneliness or anxiety during these trying times.