“Well, Mom, I finally got the last box unpacked. The kids and I can now start to settle into our new home. Well, I can. They will be trying to settle here and in Dave’s home. It’s going to be so hard for them. Now that the divorce is final, how do I take care of them? How do I protect them? How to I build anything like a healthy childhood for them?”
As parents wonder where to begin to create a healthy family or how to build on what they are already doing, a few key principles emerge.
Create a vision for your family.
“It’s really hard to map a journey if you don’t know your destination.” Anonymous. For parents trying to focus their energies and care well for their children, crafting a vision of what you want for your children proves invaluable. Some questions to ponder include:
- “Who do I want my children to be when they are 25 years old?” Think about the kind of people you want your children to be. Common answers include traits like: kind, patient, generous, persevering, hard-working, respectful, etc. As you consider changing the landscape of our culture—what kind of people will it take to do that?
- “What traits do I want to define the relationships my children have with others when they are 25?”
- “What kind of relationship do I hope I will have with my children when they are 25?”
This vision helps focus your home. Because children become what they live, parents must model the traits they hope will define their children. Children spot hypocrisy from a mile away. So, to impart these traits to our children, we must first embody them in our interactions. If we want our children to be respectful or patient or kind, we must be respectful, patient, and kind with them. With our ex-spouse. With our boss. With everyone.
And we must be these in the most difficult moments. We must be respectful and patient with the nasty cashier at the check-out and the incompetent waiter at the restaurant. Anybody can be kind when life is going our way. When we are patient and kind with children who explode or the cashier who blows us off, we not only convince our children these traits really matter—we also show them how to be that kind of person when life gets hard.
Create security and significance for your child.
Security and significance form the two cores needs of every person. Our homes, therefore, need to be places where children feel safe and valued. We contribute to these when we:
- Actively and lovingly set boundaries for children. While children (and pretty much everyone else) think they would love to be able to do whatever they want, they find security in boundaries. When parents set limits, children trust that someone is in charge. Making the decisions. Looking out for them. Of course, as children grow up—we slowly transition decision making to them. It’s a skill they need to learn and own. But, even in adolescence, children thrive when parents actively define appropriate behavior, responsibilities, and schedules.
- Follow the rules we set for our children. If children can’t yell, neither should parents. If children need good sleep, so do parents. When parents adhere to the same standards we impose on children, security flows. Of course this is in principle more than details—a parent’s bedtime is different than a child’s, but both seek healthy sleep routines.
- Focus on children. Set aside the phone, the computer, the television and spend time with your children. It can be hard! Some of us don’t know how to spend time with our children, so we take them to ball practice or plunk them in front of a video. While neither of those is inherently wrong, when our defining pattern is to shuffle children to something/someone else, children feel insignificant. Go to the library and check out one of the many of books on activities to do with children—they range from infant to teen. Play in the backyard. Go on walks. Join them on the toy room floor. Get together with other parents and their kids. When starting out, it’s ok to set a timer and say, “I will exclusively focus on my child/children for (10, 15, or 20) minutes.” This provides a weird kind of security that frees us to focus on just figuring out how to do engage with them. As we build the skills of being with our children, the time naturally extends. One day, we’re surprised by how connected we are to our child and how the time has flown.
Protect their childhood.
We live in a world that forces adult behaviors, questions, and values onto children. Push back. Children need their childhood. Their time to be innocent, curious, and exploratory. They need protected space where they are not the decision-makers or the mediators of conflict or the pawn of an agenda. This space allows them to discover themselves and the world under the watchful care of parents. They are not pushed to know adult themes, exposed to adult matters, nor expected to behave like adults. Instead, they are given the gift of childhood.
If you would like help in building this kind of home, please call The Resolution Center at 317-344-9740 or email info@TheResolutionCenterIndy.com. We look forward to serving you.