It is the beginning of a new year, and albeit the last two years have been tough on many families for a variety of reasons, consider the month of January a great time to bring in healthy habits into your family routine. Our ever-on world including social media, our work environment, and everything else is consistently telling us that we must be perfect, however, if you as a parent understand the good balance of habits and expectation setting and nourish this in your child, they too will understand how habits are vital to our emotional and mental well-being, rather than seeking perfection and society’ approval.
You are the example
As parents, we face many challenges from dealing with stress at work to ensuring dinner is ready, to playtime, school, shopping, family time, individual time, and so forth, but we often may lose the balance for ourselves. And regardless of the situation one may be in, it is important to note that our children are consistently watching (and listening for that matter) about how we do things as parents. We are their role models, especially in the first decade of their lives.
All these tasks and to-dos in our lives may at times be tricky for us as parents, so imagine the impact on children. Simple things, including the not-so-good things we eat or overdoing the whole fitness culture routine, imposes on our kids’ perceptions that may cause them to swing one way or the other about themselves. The same with things like “giving up” when you fail at something. Do you model that, or do you show them that in failure there is an opportunity to grow?
There is no perfect parent, regardless of what it may at times seem to you. We all struggle, let alone model our behavior to be a positive day in and day out for our children. It is okay to feel overwhelmed at times or even stressed. It is part of human nature. What matters is how we go about dealing with these things in our own lives so that it translates into a positive message for our kids. We need to become more mindful and aware of how we handle things, situations, moments and learn to become conscious examples of good for all areas in the lives of our children, and that in and of itself is not an easy task.
Just know, that everyone, again, everyone fails at times and that is fine. As a parent, we are the role models, and creating healthy habits that are balanced are what our kids need. Here are a few thoughts to help you, help your child nurture a positive self-view and environment in regard to habits.
Nurture a positive home environment
Today, the world has changed drastically in comparison to just a decade ago. It is ever-on, ever flooding us with information. Even now with/after the pandemic as work culture has shifted into our home, many companies with unhealthy cultures stress employees about the work-life balance issue. However, everything is a conscious effort when it comes to creating healthy habits.
Set aside a certain amount of time for undivided attention
Look at your calendar and all the things you need to do day in and day out, and truly set a time of undivided attention for your children. Tell them these 30 mins or hours (or whatever time span you have, each day) belong to them – every day, create that habit. There are a variety of ways to do this, whether you have a single child or multiple kids. You can do this together with your partner or individually – however, if individual, then both parents should set aside the same time for each child. It could be just sitting next to him/her while they are playing with Legos or coloring and watching them as they do so. Your presence and your child knowing that they matter to you instills confidence. So figure out what works best for your home.
Your mobile phone should be put away
Create the habit of putting your mobile away. A majority of parents are stuck to their phones, whether it’s scrolling through social media, reading the news, writing work-related emails or sending text messages, or simply on the phone for hours on end. Children notice this. Make sure to strictly set aside your phone regardless of the environment. Maybe it’s the time between dinner and then going to bed. Whether that’s playtime or reading time for everyone or doing some sports outside, eating dinner, and talking about the day. Create the habit of avoiding your phone at all costs. This sends the signal that albeit technology is important, it is not the centerpiece of attention in your home.
Do your own thing,
Whoa – say what?
Yes. It is important to set aside some time for yourself, and albeit that perhaps being evenings when things have calmed down or early mornings, you should create a habit of doing something for yourself where your children consciously know that is something you do for you. Whether it’s for personal growth like reading a book or doing some fitness. We talk about doing things together as a family, but it is also significant for children to learn independence and that we all need moments of personal zen. It goes to show that setting boundaries is okay, also when they grow up. As parents, we need to learn to nurture ourselves as well, whether it’s our mental health and reading, doing some yoga, or even just taking 20 minutes to watch a show on TV. It’s about how you convey the message to your children about what you are doing now. It’s not about being selfish, it’s about establishing something for oneself that you as an individual find important.
This is a tough one for many parents. It could be that you don’t have anyone around to help out, or perhaps a babysitter is too expensive on the regular – however, whatever the reason maybe if you are in a relationship, it is important to take moments out of the month and show your kids that mommy and daddy are going on a “date night.” It conveys the message of caring for one another in a relationship. Likewise, it could be actually leaving the kids with grandparents, or it may be telling them that together you will be watching a movie tonight after they go to bed. If you have conveyed the message that you as parents take time to enjoy each other. Creating that habit will instill care and compassion for your child, even if you don’t notice it.
On the downside, drop them off too often at your parent’s house, and they may end up wondering why their parents do so much for themselves rather than with or for them. It’s a line to tread cautiously, depending on several circumstances.
The morning routine
Just as adults need to start the morning right, children need the same. Starting the day with a grateful heart and a mindful spirit allows your child to tackle the day with a positive, open mindset. Whatever your morning routine maybe, create a habit of certain elements – for example, reading a page or two from a story while eating breakfast. Or listening to something in a different language. Possibly for your family, it’s something more spiritual like prayer. Whatever that habit may be, make sure that your kids understand it, and they are on board with it, not because you want them to but because they understand the why of it. The choice should be theirs.
Talk with your kids and ask questions
One of the best moments, if you are together as a family, is perhaps in the evenings at dinner or together in the living room. It should be at a moment where everyone can look each other in the eyes, without distraction, no phones, no television, or anything else, and everyone is paying attention to everyone else. Ask your kids about their day. What is happening in Kindergarten or at school? What are their thoughts on certain subjects? How are they feeling? Show that you are interested! Make this a daily habit, as children will take a vast amount of positivity out of this knowing that they can talk about a variety of things including their feelings, and express themselves accordingly.
The important thing to keep in mind when teaching healthy habits
Society is flawed in many regards. But that is not the point of this post. However, if you can teach your child to create healthy habits where those things add up to become their source of joy, peace, and hope, then as they grow up you can rest assured that the values and principles they learned as children will make the world just that much better.
Nonetheless, keep in mind, that encouraging habits start with us as parents. We walk alongside our children as they journey through life. We do not dictate in that regard, as they grow up in their learnings of physical life skills or emotional ones. One must also be careful not to convey the message of perfectionism through habits. As with all things, the balance between it all is what matters. As a parent, be your child’s’ safe space in any scenario. Be too extreme on one side or the other, and it may cause your child to become perfect little actors or eventually try to get as far away from you as possible. As parents, it is our responsibility to teach, guide, and nurture our children and their habits.
Ideas for good habits
- Write a journal – for older children who have learned to read and right to teach them how to process their thoughts and reflect.
- Chores – starting early on, give them assignments like cleaning up certain toys or helping put away things to teach responsibility.
- Screen time limits – it is easier said than done in today’s world, however set limits and parental controls from early on to teach discipline.
- Work out or daily activity – whether its following yoga on youtube or going on a family bike ride to spending time in nature. Teach them to make a daily habit out of activities and fitness to learn about health and bonding.
- Creating a schedule – sit down and create an overview of who does what the following day to teach them about time management and structure. Remember it is not about perfection each day.
- Eating together – teaches them about bonding, talking and appreciating moments with family.
- Rest time – kids need to learn to unwind just as much as adults do. Teach them to understand boundaries and focus on themselves.
These are just a few ideas of things you can do. Fairly straightforward, however encouraging healthy habits from a young age, without seeking perfection or approval from anyone will help your child develop life skills.