I am privileged to be the mother of four adult children and four and a half grandchildren. The question of what makes children happy has therefore been a prominent theme throughout my adult life. I would like to share a few ideas and conclusions with you at the beginning of a new school year:
Children need adequate time to play and discover on their own in an unstructured way. They need the opportunity to devise their own games, to give their imagination and creativity wings and to be comfortable to occupy themselves independently without electronics.These skills need to be encouraged from a very early age already. This gives children the opportunity to “breathe easy” in a busy life and lays the firm foundation for confidence and future creative problem-solving skills.
It is crucial to listen to the opinions of children and to consider them when decisions are made. They are in fact very wise and insightful and we as adults can learn much from them. Dialogue and a democratic parenting style is preferable over autocracy and control. This obviously implies respect for children as individuals. It encourages them to discuss their problems with their parent with spontaneity and ease.
Parents need to guard against the over-structuring and cluttering of their children’s time with an overload of activities. They are not robots and don’t need constant pressure to achieve. This often happens because we as parents attempt to use our children to realize our own unfulfilled dreams. The result is that many children already suffer from burn-out at a young age with accompanying anxiety and even depression.
It is of vital importance that parents spend time and pay close attention to their own continuous development as human beings. This includes internal reflection, correction, self-discovery, and improvement. In the last instance, we as parents need to set a worthy example of what it means to be sterling human beings to our children. A fulfilled parent has a far greater chance of raising a fulfilled and happy child.
Communicate and dialogue with children about the deeper and more serious aspects of life like spirituality, expressing emotions appropriately, ethical issues, history, theatre, music, caring for the environment etc. Expose them to knowledge and books. Teach them to challenge “what is” by asking critical questions; cultivate a love for reading.
Ensure a home environment that is calm and tranquil; full of laughter and joy. It needs to be a sanctuary and cocoon of safety, openness and nurturing. This includes that parents will put in an effort to maintain a healthy marriage and how to deal with conflict in a healthy manner.
Make quality, one on one time for your child and make a point to constantly reassure them of your unconditional love under all circumstances and not only when they achieve. Physical expressions of love are of crucial importance.
One of my favourite quotes is that of Kahlil Gibran from “The Prophet.” He writes “Our children don’t belong to us. They belong to a future of which we can never be part. We are but the bow from which the arrow sets forth.” One of the goals that are promoted at thinkingfit is to assist parents to do this with insight and care.