Being a parent is incredibly fulfilling – and incredibly challenging at times too! Your kids have so much to learn about themselves and about life, and it’s your role as their parent to help them learn.
Your kids are going to be exposed to a lot of ideas and opinions as they grow up – from peers, the media, teachers and other adults in their lives. You can’t always control what they hear, but you can help them build a good foundation for life by teaching them some key things.
Here’s how to teach your kids everything they need to know to grow up into happy and well adjusted adults.
Teach them about relationships
Teaching your kids about relationships will set them up to form healthy relationships for themselves as they get older. Kids are getting more and more information about relationships at a younger age thanks to media and the internet – and the information isn’t always the most healthy or respectful. That’s why teaching them all you can about healthy relationships matters.
Start by modeling healthy relationships in your own life. Practice speaking to your partner with respect, making time to validate and listen to them, and setting healthy boundaries regarding your own needs. Let the way you relate to others be a good example for your kids.
Sit down with your kids regularly and talk to them about the media they consume, or that you watch together. Talk about the unhealthy examples many shows set (basing relationships on looks, having a fairytale ending with no effort, lying to your partner etc), and encourage them to pinpoint what healthier relationships would look like.
Teach them about love
Love, whether for a partner, friends, or family, can be both wonderful and a challenge. Teaching your kids about love will equip them for healthy relationships and friendships. The best way to teach them about love is to model it in your relationship with them:
- Be affectionate. Be generous with hugs and kisses and say I love you regularly.
- Be kind. Even on bad days, show your kids kindness. If they make a mistake, let them know that it’s ok, everyone makes mistakes sometimes. Do nice things for them and let them know they matter.
- Be supportive. Encourage your kids’ interests and dreams, even if they don’t match your own. Choose words that build them up instead of making them feel small. Be there for them if they’re having a hard time, even if it seems like a small thing to you.
- Be respectful. Say please if you want them to do something, and thank you after it’s done. Listen to them and validate them. Choose your words carefully.
Showing love to your kids, partner and friends will teach them about love, feelings, respect and positive relationships.
Teach them about respect
Kids aren’t born knowing how to be respectful. Learning respect takes time, but it’s vital for healthy relationships with others. Teaching your kids respect takes patience, but it’s a vital life skill.
Start by always treating them with respect. If you yell, say hurtful things, or treat them like they don’t matter, that’s what they’ll learn. Even if they’re pushing your buttons, treat them with respect at all times.
Don’t let disrespect slide – nip it in the bud as soon as you notice it. Let them know calmly but firmly that it’s not okay to talk to other people that way. Be kind, but firm about it. Later on, when things are calm again, sit down with them and have a chat about what happened. Be sure to reassure them that even if you don’t approve of their actions, you still love and approve of them.
Teach them about acceptance and tolerance
Acceptance and tolerance are two sides of the same coin – and it’s vitally important that you teach your kids about both! Learning acceptance and tolerance will help them grow into caring, compassionate people who accept others regardless of differences.
The best way to teach acceptance and tolerance is, of course, to model those things in your own life. Become more mindful of the words you use when talking about others. If you catch yourself making disparaging remarks about someone who is different from you, your kids will learn that it’s ok to talk about others that way.
Be mindful of the shows and movies your kids watch. Try and pick out things that show diverse characters (whether of a different race or culture, or differently abled) in a positive light. Don’t stop with media though – look for opportunities for your kids to socialize with others who are different to themselves.
Teach them about friendship
Being a good friend is an important life skill that will help your kids form healthy friendships as they get older. Like any other life skill, being a good friend is something that can be learned.
You can sit down with your kids and talk about friendship. Teach them what it means to be a friend:
- Being there for the other person if they are sad
- Being helpful
- Showing respect and kindness
- Remembering birthdays or anniversaries
- Being sensitive to their needs
- Taking turns to choose what to do
Of course you don’t have to stop with talking! You can role play friendship scenarios with your kids, and help them learn how to navigate friendship challenges, or practice skills such as how to hold a conversation.
Don’t forget to teach your kids about what they can expect from their friends, too. Learning to differentiate healthy and unhealthy friendships will help them set good boundaries and avoid toxic situations as they get older.
Teach your kids about the basics of love, acceptance, tolerance, friendships, relationships and respect, and they’ll be well prepared for their journey through life.