HUGS & HAPPINESS by Georgina Vintin

We all want the best for our children and work hard at achieving this. Clients often ask advice about how they can make their children happy and confident. Of course, choosing the right schooling that suits your child is important, but the biggest influence on a child's life and who they become as adults is their parents and wider family relationships. Use positive parenting skills to bring about a balanced and happy growing experience.

Build self esteem

An adult's success in life is largely down to having healthy self-esteem, for me this is more important than intellect.  It is crucial in forming and maintaining successful relationships. Feel good about yourself, and people in return will feel this about you. Children need affirming statements about themselves around 5-10 times a day.  Comments like 'clever you', 'well done', 'you are such a good boy/girl' are key sayings that build up the child's identity.  Children praised for effort rather than ability are more likely to enjoy challenging tasks and show more motivation.

Acknowledging behaviour is also important, like 'you did that really well'. Damaging sayings like 'you are stupid', 'you'll never get it right', 'what's wrong with you' etc have long-lasting impact and can heavily influence their lives.  Too many times I've worked with adults who have received this kind of negative messaging over the years. Even though they may have heard positive things too, it's the negative one's that stick the hardest.

Play

It's a fact that children need to play.  Playing contributes essential social and personal development skills. Organising sporting activities is paramount and something widely regarded as a norm in our society. Encourage activities like laughter, imagination, games, ritual, story-telling, art, colouring in, play-acting and your child will be creative and well adjusted.  

Manage emotions

Children need to learn to identify and manage their emotions.  You can help them along by naming or guessing the emotions they may be experiencing at a critical time. Help them set boundaries or offer ideas how they can best manage emotions and teach them not to be scared of them ' this is part of life as a human being and everyone experiences emotions. Quality family time Give quality time to the family on a regular basis.  This allows an opportunity to check in with one another and connect with what everyone has been doing and how they are.  Having dinner as a family around the table every evening or every Sunday is a valuable practice. Rituals and special celebrations on important days create long lasting memories and are an important part of framing childhood experience.

Be happy parents

Mostly, happy parents make happy children so self-care is vital. So is looking after each other, taking guilt-free time out and nurturing your spousal relationship to make sure you meet each other's emotional needs. This achieves three important things: It models to children how fulfilling and happy relationships work. It makes happy parents ' a necessary component in being more positive and patient in the parent - child relationship.  It also models to the child the importance of self-happiness and how you take responsibility for this.

Create boundaries

Children generally want to know everything that's going on, it's based on the human instinct of survival. But children don't need to know about 'adult business' and should be protected from adult worries.  Have difficult conversations away from children, perhaps when they're in bed or at school.  Because we live in a culture of blame children may feel compelled to side with one parent or the other and this will burden them.  Regardless of conflict, children need to get the message that they are loved dearly. 

Georgina Vintin is a Systemic Therapist, who works with couples, individuals and families across Cape Town. Georgina is offering the first session FREE to all Wellness magazine readers.  Her work is brief, up to 8 sessions, with fast sustainable change. Visit www.systemic-therapist.co.za.  

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