What lessons would you want your children to remember if this was you last day together? I lost my mother when my children were just three and four years old. As my daughters entered their teen years, I realized there was so much I wish I had asked my mother. I was so fortunate to have had such a good role model growing up and that made me realize that I wanted to be the best parent I could be for my children. As parents, we all want our children to harness the positive energy that will lead to healthy and happy lives, but how do we facilitate that? How can we effectively demonstrate the importance of life's lessons?
Following the death of my mother, I realized that even though she was gone physically, her words and actions still guided me. She had already shown me how to navigate through life and I knew I could do the same for my children. So, how can we take the best of our own parent’s advice and make it work with this generation?
The first thing to remember is that words don't teach as effectively as actions. The behaviors and ideals we wish to see in our children are things we, as parents, should be modeling ourselves. For me, this has been the biggest learning experience as a parent. When you see certain attitudes and behaviors do you immediately recognize that your kids are mirroring back your vices? This illustrates just how important our actions are to our children!
I think a common thread that weaves its way through all of life's lessons is self-esteem. This trait can't be taught, but we can help our children, from the beginning of early childhood, to have a good self-image. As a mother of two daughters, how often have I stood in front of the mirror and criticized something about my appearance? When we do this, what message are we sending to our kids? If parents want our children to feel beautiful just as they are, we need to model that behavior for them.
We can teach our children to look in the mirror and not find fault, but rather, shift their perspective to things they appreciate about their features. The more teens can complement their own appearance, the easier it will be for them to find things they do like about themselves, both externally and internally.
Today, more than ever, teens are bombarded with information and images of what's "in" and "cool". As they sort through all the ideas available to them, it's important for parents to let your children know it is OK to be an individual! A solid self-image is the cornerstone for any healthy person and we all deserve to feel good about ourselves. Teach your children that feeling good about one's self comes from inside. Though this can be a tough concept for our children to grasp, we can help by encouraging them to turn off the ads and stimuli for a time during each day and just think about who they want to be as a person. If they unplug from their computers and TVs, they can take some time to do more creative activities like journaling or drawing which will help them to explore their own style.
And so we point back to good self-esteem as the foundation for making good choices in life. People that feel good about how they are perceived, generally take better care of themselves. Teens who are secure in their appearance and personality are much less likely to engage in dangerous behaviors because they have a healthy self-esteem and respect for themselves and their bodies. They are more comfortable being individuals regardless of peer-pressure.
This is an important lesson for all of us to remember. Humans are social creatures and, as such, we want to be accepted by our peers. Our children need to know the benefits of being a unique individual. For example, when they are comfortable being themselves, people that share like interests are more likely to gravitate towards each other. Being around people who reflect our positive attributes will likely bring more happiness and success into their lives. Teach your children to choose friends who uplift them and with whom they can enjoy life.
Find Things You Love to Do
Doing things you love and finding others that share those interests are very important for our teens. Finding clubs, hobbies, and groups that give them a sense of belonging and meaning helps to not only build a sense of community, but also builds important self-esteem. As parents, we can help them to explore some possibly hidden talents they may have. Being involved in afterschool activities or even volunteer work outside of school helps to round out a teen's life and make them feel like they are contributing to something positive.
As our young people learn to love and respect themselves, they need to recognize that everyone has that same right. Teens will most likely meet people in life that do things differently than they do or that may have differing beliefs, so teach your children that diversity is what makes the world an interesting, vibrant place. Show them how embracing, respecting and accepting differences can enrich their own lives. Control what you can: A teenager's life is full of challenges; hormonal changes and social pressures are just some of the issues facing our kids! It's so important for children to learn that there is only so much they can control. The most important things they get to control are their thoughts and reactions to situations.
Thoughts are very powerful and they can be used to uplift or drag you down. When you realize that you are in the driver's seat and you get to control which train your thoughts get on, it's a powerful notion. We can help our teens realize that they are in control of this aspect of their lives.
Stop the negative self-talk: Even as adults, we all have a lot of chatter that goes on in our heads. If we take a moment to notice whether our self-talk serves us or defeats us, we can make the conscious effort to be more choosey about our thoughts. We really do become what we think. Why not practice thinking good thoughts that uplift us?
What Doesn't Kill You, Makes You Stronger
The most profound growth in anyone's life comes during a period of perceived struggle. Everything we experience in life serves the purpose of clarifying what we want from our own life. So, when we're experiencing a difficult moment, as we work through it, we are growing and learning. I always remind my children to look back at times past and moments that seemed so traumatic. As they recall them, they also remember that they got through those times. They worked through those issues and they came out on the other side; wiser and stronger!
My daughters navigate through their lives easier by realizing that they are not alone. They are not the first people to be feeling or experiencing hardship and they won't be the last. We need to show our children that they have all the tools they need to get through anything that life offers. Every person experiences a nice mixture of good times and not so good times. That is the nature of life.
Keep a Positive Attitude
As our children surf through life's waves, we can help them to try to look for the positive. In any situation, there are positive aspects and some not so positive moments. Teach your children to train their focus. They get to decide where they put their attention. Look for the bright side in any circumstance, to the best of your ability, and you can do anything you put your mind to.
Our children will be faced with many challenges throughout their lives, but if they can get into the habit of focusing on the brightest side of any circumstance, they can improve the quality of their lives. The more they practice, the easier it gets and, the easier it gets, the more at peace they will become.
Simplicity in Your Present Moment
Which brings me to my final point, look around you and appreciate all the simple, good things in your lives right now. We are so blessed and the more we can look around us and recognize how lucky we are, the more goodness we allow into our lives. We're never too young or old to learn that lesson.
So, as we grow as parents, don't let moments pass you by that can serve as teaching moments for you and your children. Start now by making positive changes in your own lives so that you can be a positive role model for your children. Listen to the advice of trusted elders. Even though times have changed, people are still people. The basic issues our teens face today are quite similar feeling-wise to those we faced and our parents faced. Just as I hear my mother's words as plainly as if she were alive and right beside me, someday your children will hear yours as well. Make the most of your time together!