By Sue Groner | Contributor
As a new mom, I worked tirelessly to adapt to a new, and unfamiliar landscape, before founding The Parenting Mentor and the CLEARR™ method of parenting. I chose to start this journey because I truly understood the value of mentorship in all facets of life. My mentor was the person who would support me in trying to attain my goals, speak to me kindly when I failed, and help me figure out how I might approach a similar goal more effectively next time. I had far fewer crises and many more successes than when I was trying to figure it all out myself.
I understand that most parents are having trouble finding precious moments of “me” time, especially now. I wrote Parenting with Sanity and Joy: 101 Simple Strategies to provide simple, actionable tips that can help parents improve their approach while helping their children feel safe and loved, and to grow up to be confident, capable, caring adults.
Here are some of my favorite tips from my new book:
Turn off your phone
When you are with your child, set your phone to Do Not Disturb. Or better yet, put it away. This gesture says, “Right now, there is nothing more important than you!” Setting aside time when you can unplug and not be interrupted is essential to quality time with your children. They will know you are with them 100 percent. And as a bonus, you are setting a great example by not being glued to your phone.
Celebrate family milestones together
Moving into a big kid bed. Learning to ride a bike. Getting braces off. You can avoid having one child feel left out of another child’s accomplishment by making it a point to celebrate everyone’s milestones as a family. This is an opportunity for siblings to learn to be supportive of one another and enjoy each other’s big moments and successes.
Share your fun childhood stories
Tell your kids about fun facts or happenings from when you were a child, especially stories that correspond to your child’s current age. Were you mischievous? Did you forget lines in the school play? Were you a class clown? Did you and your friends have a secret fort in the woods? Kids love to hear these stories, and they’ll probably ask you to tell them over and over. These anecdotes make you more relatable and sometimes open the door to kids sharing more about their own world. Just remember to leave your negative stories behind.
Start meals with a family question
“How was your day?” is a legitimate thing to ask, but it rarely leads to real conversation and more often shuts it down. Instead, make mealtime sharing fun by creating a set of family questions that keep the conversation flowing. Get help from games like Table Topics, or even better, let the kids take turns helping to write them—they may have things they want to ask you about, too. Encourage new questions and add them to your list. Keep the list handy at meal time to help start real conversations.
Family boundaries are personal and individual and arise from asking yourself what you consider non-negotiable. For example, “In this family, we never treat each other with disrespect” is an expectation that stems from your values and a position from which you will not budge. When your child knows that sitting in the front seat of the car before she is old enough is never, ever, ever going to happen, she will come to understand that asking is futile. Knowing where you draw the line helps your child feel safe.
Stoop to their level—literally
When having an important conversation, try to be eye to eye with your children instead of talking to them from above (literally, “talking down to them”). What you say will be heard more openly; they will feel less intimidated. Sit together on the floor and hold your child on your lap, or if you are standing, maybe let your child sit on a counter. If your child is already taller than you, have your discussions sitting down.
Adjust your attitude about mistakes
Telling your children to learn from their mistakes is a great lesson—one of the most important— but you need to walk the walk. Shifting your own idea about mistakes or problems changes your worldview. What if you taught your children to welcome their mistakes and talk about them, rather than live life trying to avoid them? What if you sat down at dinner and said, “What mistakes did we each make today?” What if everyone in your family felt they could share mishaps without feeling judged? You can almost hear the sighs of relief.
Do not dismiss your children’s concerns
Kids’ concerns can seem random and outlandish; your job is to figure out what they are really asking. “Mommy, what if you get really sick?” probably means “Who is going to take care of me?” Telling your daughter that her concern is ridiculous and you are never going to be that sick will not make her feel safe. Children feel anxious about a lot of things they don’t yet know how to put into words. Concrete information can quell that anxiety. “If I ever get really sick, Aunt Tilly will come to stay.” Children always feel better if they know you have things under control or have a plan.
Wow, that is great!
When your child shows you their latest masterpiece, responding with, “That’s beautiful” or, “I love it!” is certainly positive, but it does not convey your engagement. In fact, in some cases, it can even make you seem uninterested or dismissive, surely the opposite of what you hope to communicate. Be specific with your compliments and point out details in your child’s work— from art projects to term papers—which will help build their self-esteem.
Create a notebook to organize milestone materials
Make each of your children a loose-leaf notebook with file folders for each grade. Include their annual doctor’s report, school and team photos, report cards and any special certificates. When your child is done with high school, you will have documentation of all the important records. And, when they move into their own place, it makes a fun gift to pass on.
ABOUT SUE GRONER:
As the mother of two young adults, Sue Groner knows how stressful and overwhelming parenting can be at times. She founded The Parenting Mentor to provide an ally for parents in their quest to raise confident and resilient children. Sue is also the creator of the CLEARR™ method of parenting.