All parents want to give their children the very best childhood they can. They work their hardest and do their best, but creating a wondrous childhood for your kids can feel like a lot of pressure. What really makes a great childhood? So much of the answer to this broad question is subjective, but these thirteen sticking points are excellent ways to ensure that you are giving your all in the parenting game. Good childhood: full speed ahead!
Create a Safe Home Environment
Kids cannot thrive if they don't feel safe, so making sure home is a safe space is a vital component in your quest to create a good childhood for your kids. Be sure that you are meeting your kid's basic needs of shelter, food, clothing, medical care, and protection every day of their lives. Studies show that when a child is raised in a safe environment, the positive effects can counter negative occurrences throughout their later years. According to experts like nationally renowned parenting expert Hartley Robart, M.D., security is one of the eight essential requirements children need to grow into happy and successful adults.
Encourage a Sense of Belonging
Stability and a sense of belonging are key elements of a quality childhood. The link between belonging and community is noted as one of the seven positive childhood experiences linked to a decreased chance of depression in adulthood. Kids should feel tied to their community and family as they grow up. Involving kids in school communities, sports communities, and general living communities allows them to connect with people who care for them, while developing empathy for those within their communities. Community happenings can be positive experiences for kids, allowing them to have meaningful memories of belonging to something larger than themselves in their formative years.
Give Kids Good Role Models
A child's parents are their first and most key role models, but to help solidify hopes for a quality childhood, you might need to pull a few more trusty adults into your child's inner circle. It is suggested that kids should have a few non-parental role models in their corner as they navigate their childhood years. Aunts, uncles, grandparents, neighbors, teachers, and coaches can be ideal positive influences in the child's life, and have a common goal of helping and supporting a child and their family.
Model Happiness in Your Own Life
Happy parents raise happy kids. It is pretty cut and dry. Studies have highlighted the notion that if you want happy kids, look inward at yourself. Are you a content and satisfied person? If the answer is no, your mood and disposition towards life could be impacting your children and their childhood. Spend some time finding your own joys and interests and meeting your own needs. It's not selfish. It is essential to good parenting and for providing kids with a good childhood!
Reward Efforts and Steer Clear of Perfectionism
Happy and successful individuals emphasize effort, not the end result, per the work of Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck. Parents who raise kids to be nothing but perfect run the risk of doing damage and even marring a good childhood experience.
Teach your children that it is okay, or even wonderful, to be imperfect. Embrace flaws and failures, because that is where the learning happens. Help them understand that life is a journey to be enjoyed, not a race to some invisible finish line.
Make Time to Play
Most kids do not give a rip about a perfect craft or an impeccably baked cake. They are in it for the fun and the quality time spent with you. In hopes of providing a good childhood to your offspring, remember to get messy, get lost in the moment, and make time to play!
The benefits of unstructured play are vast, and the positive effects will likely follow your children into their adult years. So what if the dishes sit in the sink, the laundry piles up for a day, and the meals are not gourmet. The kids will look back on you playing with them and think what thoughtful, present, and wonderful parents they had... and good parenting often leads to a good childhood.
Teach Kids to Give Back
If you can financially give your kids the world, that's great. What is even better, however, is when you are able to teach your children the art of giving. Get them involved in volunteering for a cause close to their heart. Learning to give without expectation of receiving anything in return will grow their empathetic nature as well as their self-esteem. It can show them that there is more to life than getting things; and fostering a giving spirit creates happy hearts and happy humans.
Keep Voices Down
Yes. Your children will leave childhood with memories of you becoming angry from time to time. No one moves through eighteen years of parenting without losing their temper (and if anyone has actually done that, we would like to meet them and learn their secrets)! During your parenting adventure, it is almost a guarantee that you will send your child to timeout, send yourself to timeout, and enforce consequences more than a time... or two... or a hundred.
That said, try to minimize the yelling in your home. There are ways to elicit desired responses from your children other than screaming at the top of your lungs. Yelling can have lasting adverse effects on children, effects that work against the concept of a happy, healthy childhood.
Gather As a Family, Often
Family time is important! It connects the family unit, gives family members a chance to talk, share and help one another, and allows memories to formulate. Hold family meetings, go on vacations or bonding outings and engage in family traditions and rituals often. Research tells us family rituals help children develop socially and increase familial cohesiveness.
What you do as a family isn't as important as the simple act of being together and engaging in a common activity. Give your children family experiences to someday look back and reflect on as they realize the great childhood they had, and how their memories of family gatherings contributed to that childhood.
Strive to enjoy family meals together as often as you can. Use this time to gather and connect with loved ones. Eating together has several benefits and can contribute to a child's success in school, increase confidence, and decrease the likelihood that kids will develop bad habits like drinking, smoking, doing drugs, or developing psychological issues.
As families become busy, meeting for meals gets harder. Do your best to designate at least one day in the week for a family breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Be sure this gathering affords quality time to talk, share and connect, so enforce the "no screens" rule during family mealtime.
Give Them the Gift of an Education
A good childhood likely includes an element of a quality education. Kids attend schooling from the time they are five until adulthood in preparation to move onto higher-level learning or a trade. This is where they learn to really spread their wings, lean into their future, and take flight as fully functioning adults. Their education, which you fully and wholly support, is a gift, and of all the gifts you give them, this one will hopefully help catapult them into extraordinary experiences and opportunities as an adult.
Create Structure in Your Home
Kids might not thank you in real-time for the element of structure, expectation, boundaries, and limitations you impose on them in childhood, but someday they will. Without these elements interwoven into their upbringing, they can feel unsafe, and are frequently forced to grow up faster than they should. Kids should grow up knowing what to expect in their home environment. To help maintain a sense of structure in your home, try:
- Identifying rules and expectations for all family members clearly
- Explain and follow the rules and provide consequences when rules are not followed
- Have predictable schedules and routines for daily happenings
Be a Present, Emotionally Available Parent
You don't want to be a helicopter parent, hovering over your child every second of their life, but instead, you want to be an emotionally available and present parent. When kids feel the need to go to you, be there to listen in a non-judgmental manner, and help guide them when the need for direction arises. Kids should grow up knowing that if they ever need to turn to their parents, their parents will be there at the drop of a hat. The concept of being emotionally available to children helps them feel emotionally secure in their experiences.
Good Childhood Versus Perfect Childhood
Because you love your child so much, you want to give them the most idyllic childhood experience humanly possible. Remember that it is important to give your children a good childhood, not a perfect one. Perfect and parenting are two words that do not go together. In a grand attempt to be a perfect parent, you can miss the mark on good parenting. Focus on being the best you can be, and on doing the best you can do. Your efforts will be enough, and your kids will grow up to love you for the experiences you built into their upbringing.