It’s a new year, and we know many of you are making resolutions, getting a fresh start, or just re-establishing your routines after the Christmas break. Today, we offer some ideas for habits you can start with your children at any time of year, which will benefit their interpersonal and social/emotional development for years to come.
5 habits to start with your kids
- Social Communication: Eye contact and simple verbal exchanges. For our shy children, this takes work – but becomes an important gift. Whether we like it or not, the world is a social place, and first impressions count with peers and adults. Assisting our children in gaining enough confidence to make eye contact with new and familiar people and say “hello” is so very important to helping them make positive connections, gain self esteem, and receive positive responses in return from those around them. A little goes a long way. A little risk in confidence breeds further confidence. Depending on the personality of your child, you may need to prepare them ahead of time when entering an unfamiliar circumstance and even practice role playing a scenario ahead of time. Make a game at home outside the social moment to practice. Start with the habit of making eye contact and saying “hello” when greeting another person.
- Gratefulness: Creating a thankful heart. We live in a society that loves stuff. The acquisition of things is promoted as a source of happiness. We are aware of this trap and fall into it many times as adults. Our children are equally affected by the lure of consumerism. Create language and have regular conversation about what you are thankful for. “I’m so grateful for the man that put our shopping in the bags for us” – “I’m so grateful for this house we live in that keeps us warm and dry and gives us a place to be together as a family” Actively place value on time and people, and not just things. Helping others and involving your children in small tasks assists in revealing what is entailed in creating experiences, dinners, etc… and helps foster a grateful heart.
- Responsibility: Taking care of myself and my things. Start the habit of giving your child age appropriate responsibility. It fosters gratefulness and also gives them confidence, and a sense of achievement as well as creating a life long habit of being helpful and prepared. Create margin in your day between tasks and facilitate mental planning. Stop before you leave the house and ask out loud “Do we have everything we need?” This will become so valuable once your child starts grade school. Help them mentally plan their day ahead. Help them think of everything they need and take responsibility for their stuff.
- Family Fun: Creating togetherness. Create the habit of regular family fun evenings so this becomes normal for your child as they grow. Guard your calendar to protect these times. This will also help to create meaningful screen free times in your home. Talk about the things that matter to you as a family. Read the bible together, pray together, play games together, have an ice cream night, pizza night, share values in a practical way so it becomes your child’s “normal”. Creating family traditions annually or seasonally also creates memory markers for your children. They will subconsciously absorb these traditions and pass them on to their own children.
- Conflict resolution: Keep short accounts with each other. Give your child the gift of knowing how to say sorry, ask for forgiveness, offer forgiveness and live in healthy relationships. Admit when you are wrong. Ask your child for forgiveness, if you have been emotionally out of control. (We all have our moments) Model loving responses. We are children’s greatest role models. They learn what is important and how to do life by watching us. Live it, model it, speak about what’s valuable. Give the gift of creating good emotional and social habits that enable your child to have positive relationships.
Of the 5 habits I have made mention of here, my 16 year old daughter commented that number 1 was the most important. She, being a naturally shy child, needed coaching in social interactions – yet I fell in the trap of making excuses for her shyness when she was little rather than empowering her by giving her the skills and coaching she needed.
I confess I have often found myself over-doing for my children, believing that I am being kind and fulfilling my motherly role rather than allowing them to take on age appropriate level of responsibility.
Enjoy equipping and empowering your children to live well. Mothering is the greatest job ever!