This article originally appeared on ParentingIdeas by Michael Grose.
The start of the year is a great time for making changes and improvements to the way you raise kids. The trouble is, our good intentions towards change often become derailed around March, and we return to our default mode of parenting. So nothing much changes from year to year.
At Parenting Ideas, we have selected the five tips that we think will have the most positive impact on kids this year.
1.Switch on your kids’ strengths
Most of us have been conditioned to focus on what kids can’t do. It’s not your fault. You were trained by teachers and parents who were adept at picking up your poor behaviours, highlighting errors and encouraging you to eliminate your faults.
There is a better way. The Positive Psychology movement lead by US-based psychologist Dr. Martin Seligman showed that when we can unearth kids’ strengths we are, in effect, unlocking their true potential for success and happiness. Three elements come together to make a strength, and parents need to be mindful of all three: performance (being good at something); energy (feeling good doing it); and high use (choosing to do it). Rather than locking on to your child’s weaknesses, set your antennae to your child’s strengths.
Professor Lea Waters, author of the wonderful new book The Strength Switch and current President of the International Positive Psychology Association will conduct a webinar ‘Switching on your child’s strengths‘.
2. Balance kids’ extra-curriculur activities
Alongside social media and news events, being busy is now recognised as a major stress for many children and young people. Over-scheduling kids’ lives is a relatively new phenomenon. Go back a couple of generations and a few sports, music lessons and things like scouting movements were the mainstays of after school life for most kids. Now the choice of activities to keep kids busy after school hours is mind-boggling.
Having so many options is wonderful but it does place a new set of pressures on parents. Many complain that family life is like now living in a hamster wheel, always in constant motion, with hardly a time to catch their breath. The cost of loading kids up with scheduled activities is that many don’t get the chance for free play, or simply ‘vegging out’ on the couch. The benefits of all this activity in terms of kids’ skill development, personal growth and broadening social horizons is well-founded. However finding a balance is tricky as every child, like every family is different. Parenting Ideas expert Dr.Jodi Richardson will help you find the right balance of activity for your family in her webinar ‘Balancing extra-curricular activities‘.
3. Focus on friendships
Friendships are an important part of the road to adulthood for a child or young person. With families shrinking in size peer relationships are now fundamental in providing kids with a sense of belonging, a place to hone their identity and a group upon which they can develop their future relationship skills such as tolerance, empathy and forgiveness.
Friendships can be problematic. Not every child is naturally outgoing and makes friends easily. If your child is like this, but generally seems happy, then there may be no need to do anything. If your child has difficulty forming friendships and is worried by that, then there are many ways to approach this including: encouraging kids to spend one-on-one time with others, making extra-curricular activities fit their interests, and coaching kids to develop friendly behaviours. The wonderful Sharon Witt will conduct a webinar ‘Teach girls to build each other up‘, focusing on friendship skills especially for parents of girls.
4. Give kids tools to manage anxious moments
Let’s just say it upfront. We don’t have a childhood resilience problem as many teachers and professionals say, but we do have a childhood anxiety problem. A big one! And it’s mostly undetected as community understanding of anxiety is low. It’s our experience at Parenting Ideas that many parents are anxious and they don’t know it, and many children routinely experience anxiety, which goes unrecognised.
Everyone feels worried from time to time, but these feelings pass when the stressful situation has passed. Anxiety occurs when these anxious feelings don’t pass, and happen for no obvious reason. It’s a serious condition that can be managed and minimised with their right tools. Parenting Ideas founder Michael Grose is conducting a webinar ‘Managing your child’s anxiety‘ to help parents on this challenging but important topic.
5. Develop rights of passage
Why are young people, like moths drawn to a flame, attracted to that annual end of school year beach and booze fest known as schoolies? Why do young people who for the best part of a year put their future self first and study hard to achieve best possible school results, put themselves at risk for a solitary week? It’s more than letting their hair down.
In the absence of adult-initiated rights of passage young people will always fill the void and create their own. For many young people schoolies is the right of passage. As a community we’ve struggled for many years to create meaningful rights of passage for young people. Once a young person’s first job, or their twenty-first birthday were significant markers of maturity, offering a sense that they were entering into the adult world. Community changes have largely eradicated these traditional markers, which make it harder for a young person to know when they’ve become an adult.
There are many healthy ways to recognise a young person’s growing maturity and mark his or her journey into adulthood. Many families are now creating their own rituals to mark key events such as the end of primary school, the start of the teenage years or various stages of adolescence. These traditions are now becoming legitimate rights of passage for young people. Internationally recognised expert on rites of passage Arne Rubenstein will be conducting a webinar ‘Creating 21st century rites of passage‘.
Will anything be different this year?
Change and improvement in anything worthwhile generally comes incrementally rather than in one giant leap. We pointed you in the direction that we feel is important for you and your kids to take kids this year. It’s you who has to implement changes and do the work. Through our webinars we’ve made it easy to take that vital first step to better outcomes for kids. Have a great parenting year.