It's back-to-school time, so my thoughts are on children right now. My belief is that every adult in the world carries some interest, responsibility and desire to help children and youth to shine and thrive. So while the following article may appear to be written primarily for parents, educators, or anyone who works with children, I hope that everyone might find some idea or thought in this article to ponder. The saying that it takes a village to raise a child, has never been more true.
Think about the pieces at play in your child or teen's life. What nourishes them, feeds them, inspires them, helps them to grow and thrive? What other pieces might be weakening them, discouraging them or even depressing them?
It is a useful exercise to consider what values you stand for as a parent (or teacher or relative or friend) and what gifts you wish to bring to your child or youth's life. Do you value nature? Do you believe in integrity and honesty? Do you stand for simplicity? Do you wish to bring the gift of humor, or unconditional love, or creativity to your children's life? Do you wish to model a strong work ethic or resilience, or a sense of adventure? Are you committed to certain beliefs or organizations or ways of being in the world?
It can be helpful to list our values or our vision for family life. To write down in point form what we wish to stand for or teach (directly or indirectly) to the children in our life. Then we can evaluate our own day-to-day life and see if these values or priorities are in place and "lived" for ourself.
Do we wish our children to spend time connecting with nature, yet we rarely or never go out for a walk? Do we want our children to spend less time on screens, yet we model their use constantly through our own behaviors? Do we teach our children to value people over things, but spend much of our time consuming?
Lately I realized there were a lot of things I had let slide as I observed my children spending more and more time on screens. I don't want to be just nagging all the time. So when I consider some of my values like family, joy, well being and meaningful education, it helps me direct my attention - and my actions- in positive and proactive ways. I can make choices and decide upon activities that will contribute more to those values getting a fair representation in the day, rather than just getting upset about the things I don't like.
The more we can be conscious and intentional in our parenting and family life, the better. Being anchored in our values and reflecting on them from time to time can help. There are many influences on our children and teens, and in modern day parenting. As one example, the world of media and mainstream culture has greater influence than ever before, and some of it is harmful and toxic.
Taking a little time to remind ourselves of what we stand for as parents and as a family, and what we might do to enhance or execute our parenting goals can be useful and empowering. I believe we are here to connect with our children, to love them and to be loved by them. We are also here to support their growth and development, to provide a positive framework, to enable the emergence of their true selves.
"Children don't belong to us...They are little strangers who arrive in our lives and give us pleasure and duty of caring for them - but we don't own them. We help them become who they are. - Ruth Nuneviller Steinem
Think about these questions:
What strengthens children and youth?
Which values are important to you, as you strive to nurture children?
If you are interested in this idea of "Strong Child", please reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. With my background as a teacher, principal, mother, stepmom and homeschooling mom, I am very passionate about cherishing children and youth, and protecting childhood. I plan to do more workshops and coaching exploring this topic in the future.