Written by Rosemary Strembicki
I spend a lot of time with 3-year-olds. They are my companions, playmates and most of all, my teachers. Seeing the world through their eyes and observing their reactions to everyday life has provided me with a perspective that I had lost over the past 60 years. Watching them try to make sense of the language they hear, the emotions they feel and the expectations of the various adults in their lives seems to be a huge undertaking we, as adults, have lost sight of. So the question is, how can we best help them?
All children are born shrouded in the expectations of the generations that have preceded them. Parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles all have their individual understanding of life and what it has to offer. Their experiences have shaped who they are and they all want the best that life has to offer for their children. It's a huge challenge to negotiate all those opinions and ideals but it's also the biggest gift we can give our children. It provides them with a tableau from which to view life and make choices. With guidance from their parents they can make decisions for themselves from all the information that bombards them throughout their childhood. The examples we set are the basis of their learning, how we respond to them shapes their understanding of themselves and how well we support them is the key to their emotional health.
Emotional health is the most important factor in determining the levels of satisfaction we feel as adults. It trumps income, education and academic achievement. If we are not emotionally healthy it's hard to enjoy the benefits of all three. And if we are emotionally healthy they are secondary to our feelings of satisfaction with our lives. Providing our children with a community that understands them and supports them is most important in their development. Being surrounded by adults who are invested in their best interest within a secure environment is essential to growing up with the confidence to meet the world. Accepting them for who they are and helping them develop their individual gifts (and every child has them) contributes to their self-confidence. And seeing themselves as individuals that have the capacity to help others enhances their self-esteem.
Raising our children is the most important job we will undertake. We are not only raising individuals but citizens of the world. Each one of us, and our children, contributes to society in both small and sometimes very large ways. There is no one handbook on how to do it, each family is unique, every member provides input, and every challenge has a multitude of possible solutions. What's a parent to do?
Just a few suggestions:
- Always keep your child in mind.
- Be there for the important times; don't leave them to someone else.
- Develop boundaries and expectations and stick by them.
- Surround your children with people who truly care about them.
- Always be mindful of the example you are setting.
- Remember that the investment of time lessens as our children get older so make the most of it and catch a nap every chance you get.
- Try to remain positive; children absorb the negativity around them.
- Talk to your children; even the youngest children thrive on the interaction.
- Listen to your children; even the youngest children have something to say.
Each one of us creates our own reality by how we think about the world. Helping our children develop their reality is a huge responsibility, not something to be taken lightly. Thoughtfulness is essential. We may not always make the right decisions but correcting our mistakes and being honest about our choices will teach our children that none of us is perfect. How they view us is the first step in how they will view the world.