How to Help Your Child Thrive
Parenting can be a lonely job and, contrary to popular belief, the definitive manual is yet to be written. We all want our children to be happy, healthy, safe, successful, confident and overall good human beings. And even if they don’t put it in those exact words, that’s pretty much what most kids want for themselves.
We strive to provide an environment where our kids feel safe and nurtured while also feeling confident to take risks and accept new challenges. Child & Adolescent Services - Tools for Families can help your family through the uncertainties of growing up.
How Do I Help My Child Feel Safe?
- Set limits.
Your son throws temper tantrums when he doesn’t get something he wants. Your daughter argues with you about everything, from brushing teeth to turning off the TV to bedtime. Children often make demands that try our patience. While they need to know their needs will be met, this doesn’t mean children need to get everything they want. What it does mean is that “yes” isn’t always the answer. They might not understand it until they’re older, but setting limits and boundaries will make them feel safe. And children who feel safe tend to trust others more easily. Children who don’t feel safe can feel anxious and insecure.
- Set clear expectations and a consistent structure.
You want to provide an environment that is predictable and secure. Rules as well as limits are important so kids know someone is in control and caring for them. When your 12-year- old asks for something you don’t think he’s ready for, explain your reasons, and try to steer him toward something else. It isn’t always easy, but be firm.
- Be willing to share your feelings.
Talk (and listen) to your children. You are your child’s first teacher, and he or she is paying more attention to you than you will ever know. Be willing to cry when you are sad, laugh when you are happy and raise your voice when you are angry.
Show you understand when they are angry with you or frustrated, and explain your position. Feeling understood and respected are basic human needs and your children share them. There will be times when you are accused of not having any idea how your child is feeling, and sometimes, he or she might even be right. But if you’re able to show you want to understand, communication can happen. It may not result in complete agreement, but at least there will be a foundation of respect.
How Do I Support My Child’s Academic Success?
- Stay informed.
Your 8th grader got straight A’s last year. This year, she has missed a lot of homework assignments, her grades have slipped, and she says she hates school. What gives? Your daughter might be overwhelmed with classwork. Be aware of assignments and teachers’ expectations so you have context when your daughter talks about her day.Read the course syllabi, and help her understand what is expected. Finally, encourage her to use an agenda or organizer, and review it together.
- Note other, nonacademic changes.
Have you noticed your child is spending time with a different group of friends or avoiding peers with whom she previously spent time? In addition to being academic, school is a social environment and the place where kids spend most of their “awake” time. These interactions can have a great impact on a child’s ability to learn and perform.
- Advocate for your child.
But be willing to listen to the educators who interact with him or her each day. Teachers want to partner with parents, and they readily acknowledge their jobs are easier when parents and teachers are supporting each other.
- Allow your child to take responsibility for his or her work.
Although it can be difficult, sometimes we have to let our children struggle with the consequences of their actions. Of course, we should understand what is affecting how our children learn. At times, we need to provide resources and aids that will facilitate this process.
How Can I Be Sure I’m Doing the Right Thing as a Parent?
- Be willing to partner with members of your community who are providing support for your child.
Teachers, family and friends can be role models and support that reinforce the messages you are communicating.
- Be willing to be imperfect.
Parents make mistakes, and sometimes we learn as much from our children as they learn from us. Being willing to acknowledge you don’t know everything shows it is okay to be human.
- Be willing to try different parenting styles.
Sometimes we like to believe we can control everything and hold on to the idea that if we do and hover long enough, we can prevent our children from feeling the pain of failure and regret. There is a wide continuum between helicopter and free-range.