The single most important thing you can do to help your children is to show that you love them no matter what. Knowing that you are close by and available gives your children a sense of security. Although your children’s world is expanding, you remain their primary influence.
Always remember that you are a role model.
Your children learn by watching you. So be sure that your actions and behaviors teach them how to:
• Show love and affection.
• Control anger.
• Work with other people rather than against them.
• Stay calm.
• Look forward to tomorrow.
• Express feelings.
• Be brave.
Safety and security
To build inner strength, children need to feel loved and safe. They need a family that is close, that spends regular time together, and that offers a safe haven as they grow.
• Make sure that your child feels safe. Your child is more likely to feel safe and secure if you are dependable, consistent, respectful, and responsive. These qualities are especially important for parents of preschool children, because these children are gaining a basic sense of trust in themselves and in the important people in their lives.
• Encourage safe exploration. Children need to explore. Children who explore learn new skills and how to solve problems. They learn that actions have consequences, and that causes have effects. Offer a variety of things to play with, read, create, and build. It might be hard, but try not to limit your child because of safety fears. Instead, do what you can to keep the child safe as he or she explores the world.
• Help your child build social skills. Teach your child by showing your acceptance of others and not gossiping or saying mean things about other people.
• Provide peer contact. Playing with other children even 1 day a week gives children opportunities to learn and practice important social, emotional, and language skills. Children learn to share, cooperate, and negotiate as they interact with their peers. Around age 9, many children successfully form close friendships. Forming these relationships helps children learn sensitivity to the feelings of others.
Confidence and independence
• Encourage independence. Children learn a sense of independence by practicing skills and doing things for themselves, such as getting dressed or brushing their teeth. Children who are not allowed to perform tasks on their own get the message that they are not capable.
• Help your child build self-esteem. Parents have the greatest influence on a child’s belief about himself or herself. Letting children know that they belong, are doing well, and are contributing can help them build healthy self-esteem.
• Reduce stress. Teach your child how to manage stress. Controlling stress increases resilience.
Stress Management: Helping Your Child With Stress
• Deal with fears. Understand that your child may become extremely interested in scary subjects or images as a way to overcome them. Help your child as much as you can by answering questions and providing reassurance as needed.
• Recognize and develop special talents. To build healthy self-esteem, all children need to feel that they can do at least one thing very well. Pay attention to what your children like to do. Help them develop those skills, or find out where they can learn more.
• Build thinking skills. One way to help your child build thinking and reasoning skills is to get involved in your child’s school. Volunteer if possible, work on having good relationships with teachers and other staff members, and show your interest in what your child is learning.
Caring about other people
Empathy is an important part of building inner strength. It means that a child can recognize and appreciate how others are feeling. It means that a child cares when others feel bad and that the child wants to help them. You can help your child learn empathy by demonstrating it in your own life and talking with your child about it.
• Volunteering. Do volunteer work. If you can, take your child with you.
• Sharing. Teach your child the importance of sharing.
• Helping. Let your child help you with household chores, and show how happy it makes you to have help.
Helping others can help children learn that they have the power to make others feel better.
Self-control and teaching your child what’s right
• Set limits. Setting limits for your children shows them that you love and care about them. Make sure that your rules are reasonable and that your children understand them. And follow through on any consequences you have established for failing to follow rules.
• Use good discipline techniques. Discipline is the teaching of polite and appropriate behavior. Effective parenting techniques encourage your child’s sense of responsibility, nurture self-esteem, and strengthen your parent–child relationship.
• Teach self-control. Children learn by example. Teach appropriate behavior. Avoid physical punishment for behavior that is not appropriate.
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