Parents would do anything for their kids, from literally shielding our babies from bullets to throwing ourselves in front of cars to save their lives. But we’re here with 10 less extreme ways you can help your children — while still making a big impact.
Give them options
Create options for more structured independent time, says Lindsey Wander, the founder and CEO of WorldWise Tutoring. Put age-appropriate games, crafts, hobbies and books into a box, and let your child look through that box during independent time to choose the activity of the day. This fosters independence and gives children a sense of control over their activities.
Teach coping skills
Mental health and wellbeing are essential for children (and for parents). To build those, your brain and body have to operate from a place of minimal stress. “Teaching children of all ages to support their emotional wellbeing, and teaching self-regulation strategies is critical to performing at their fullest potential,” says Alyssa Stone, a music therapist. Parents can teach their children independent, self-regulation strategies by modeling this behavior and by teaching their kids a variety of coping tools, Stone says. This can be as simple as learning a breathing pattern, such as “smell the flower, blow out the candle,” which you can find on YouTube, to sitting through a guided, daily meditation practice.
Try multisensory learning
Don’t be afraid to take homework and turn it into a fun activity by using food or different art mediums, says Amanda Puentes, a speech language pathologist. For example, if you’re working on prepositions with your child, you can easily use marshmallow fluff with pretzels to talk about inside, outside, between, etc. “It gives them a hands-on experience, which they can later refer to when they are applying the concept in a school assignment,” Puentes says.
Encourage daily habits
Habits matter. The habits your children develop now will affect how they manage their affairs in college and in the workforce, says Elan Divon, the founder of Divon Academy, which specializes in professional and educational development. “Encouraging simple morning and evening rituals like making their bed, avoiding social media before sleep and for the first hour after waking up, daily exercise, not to mention more grown-up things like meditation and gratitude journals, will do wonders,” Divon says.
Give them personal responsibilities
Make a list of all the things you do for your children, and then delete all the items your children can do themselves. The more responsibilities your children assume, the more self-confident and self-reliant they will become, Divon says.
Study famous fails
Read them a biography of one of their heroes and discuss the trials and tribulations of making it to the top, Divon says. It’s important that your children understand that failure is an essential part of the journey to success — and that pain, struggle and adversity are part of the package. If you want your children to be successful, they must learn how to fall and fail and get right back up again.
Create a predictable routine
Brains are pattern-seeking, says Kate Fraiser, a parent coach. Translation: We each have a biochemical preference for routines and our brains feel, think and act our best when we know what to expect to happen first, next and last. Having a predictable routine is helpful for everyone in your home. Start by going to bed and waking up at the same time — even weekends. Even better: Write a schedule and hang it up so your children can know what to expect every day.
Reevaluate your bedtime routine
Create screen-free routines in the evening to reduce total screen time, prioritize sleep and allow healthy levels of melatonin and sleep cycles to flourish naturally without the interference of screens and blue light, says Nicole Rawson, digital wellness expert and founder of Screen Time Clinic. You can even create designated screen-free places, like the bedroom and the bathroom, Rawson suggests.
Unless, that is, you have a good reason to say “no,” says Emily Stone, the owner and senior clinician of UnStuck Group. “As a parent, you want your child to have a positive association with coming to you.” Help them learn that you are going to say “yes,” she says. When you need to say “no,” try: “I know my ‘no’ is frustrating for you. It might even make you angry with me. I am making the best parenting decision I know to make right now, and that is my answer,” Stone says.
Try reflective listening
This is when you summarize and repeat back what your child is saying. It also helps a child grow in emotional intelligence, self-awareness and understanding, Stone says. “It also helps the child feel like you are really listening,” she says. For example, you can say, “It sounds like you were hurt by your friends at school. Am I hearing that right?” Stone says.
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