This post was originally featured on the Who’s Your? online magazine. In celebration of Mother’s Day, here are some tips on how to be the happy mum you’d like to be.
1. Be adventurous together.
In spite of the many challenges, parenting is gratifying! Choosing to be adventurous means you can make it up as you go along because no one has all the answers and life keeps changing. You want to raise kids who are adaptable as you show yourself to be.
Try replacing “no!” with “yes, but…..” and then list your concerns so your kids are safe because the only non-negotiable is their safety – in both physical space and cyber space. Your kids then become resilient by understanding that they need to earn their privileges by understanding the consequences.
2. Be curious and seek knowledge together.
Enjoy the adventure and novelty of learning and growing together. Be curious too, of the full range of emotions – glad, sad and bad and how the contrast is what makes us happy – if we were permanently stuck in happy, it would be boring not awesome. When sad or bad things happen – as they always will, use the strategy of positive reframing. This is when you allow a reflection of the event, allowing the lesson from that event to shape a new and positive way of thinking and then make an informed choice how to move forward from the event.
3. Be the ‘go to person’ for your kids by being open, present and vulnerable.
When kids see their parents can make informed choices and take calculated risks, they will grow to be more confident and as a parent, you have shown yourself to be credible and safe for them to share their vulnerabilities. Share stories of past traumas – as appropriate and lessons learnt from them. I discussed with my children my deluded thinking in my early 20s that I could start smoking and give it up easily. I was horrified when I realised in a short time smoking, I had become addicted and it was a confronting process to give smoking up permanently.
4. Role model your values and boundaries and discuss why they work for you.
Use whatever is happening in the news or at school sports club or religious group as an example e.g. “I’m concerned about the impact of some drugs and I’m uncomfortable with sportspeople who use drugs because….”
Your children do not define you. You demonstrate what defines you. When they see you value personal time and space and add value and receive value in other areas of your life, they learn they can too. Our kids understood there was one on one time with them; family time and adult time when they were excluded. They were not happy with that in the early years because kids are wired to pursue their own needs. Since we were firm and consistent, they had no option and in time, they grew to feel comfortable to advocate for themselves special time with us, their friends, groups they belonged to or quiet time alone – just as their parent did.
5. Birds and bees is so yesterday – technology is the new sex talk!
Start by answering all the questions they ask about biology and reproduction before they turn 9 years old. Research indicates that kids are entering puberty early and society influences their sexual frame of reference. You can ‘protect their innocence’ by being the ‘go to person’ who is able to discuss confronting sexual issues as they arise and so you earn currency with them by being relevant and available. Use the first 4 tips here and the ‘Parents, tweens and sex’ app for the iPad designed to help parents have these discussions with their 10- 13 year olds while sharing their personal values and ethics.