• Give attention and affection – lots of smiles and hugs. This makes your children feel secure, loved and accepted.
• Play with your children. Playing together is a great way for you to connect, get to know them better and have fun. It’s also a great way for children to develop physical, imagination and social skills.
• Comfort your children. When children are hurt or frightened, sad or angry, being comforted helps them feel as if they’re not alone with their big feelings. They will feel closer to you and learn healthy ways to comfort themselves and others as they get older.
• Listen with interest to your children’s feelings, thoughts and ideas. This lets them know you think what they have to say is important.
• Show empathy. Empathy means seeing things from other people’s point of view. This doesn’t mean you have to agree with them. It just means that you are letting them know you understand how they feel. When children feel understood, it’s easier for them to try to understand others. Empathy is the foundation for developing caring relationships with other people.
• Help your children identify and express their feelings (glad, sad, mad, scared, etc.). Point out that other people have these feelings, too. • Reduce TV time. Experts recommend that children under 2 years should not watch any TV. Children between 2-4 years should watch less than 1 hour per day. Instead, find things to do that build your relationship, like reading together or going to the park.
• Read or tell your children stories about people who show compassion, kindness and understanding for others.
• Help your children talk about their thoughts. Often when we ask children to tell us what they are thinking, they shrug their shoulders and say, “I don’t know.” However, questions like, “What are you saying to yourself inside your head?” or “What is your head telling you?” often helps children to express thoughts that cause their feelings and behaviours. For example, a child who refuses to get dressed in the morning may be able to tell us what is actually causing this behaviour. “I hate nursery! Everyone takes my toys. No one wants to play with me. I hate nursery!!!”
• Show empathy for your children’s thoughts and feelings. “I understand. You’re feeling sad and mad about what happens in nursery.” Then, think together about ways to make the situation better, for example “Let’s talk with Mrs Crowder about helping you enjoy your time at nursery. Yesterday, when I picked you up, you were laughing with XXXXX Maybe you and XXXXX could play together today.”
• Encourage your children to keep on trying even when the task is hard or frustrating. Give children the courage to keep going. “That’s it! You almost did it. Keep going… Good for you. You kept trying and you did it!
• Show your children that “Mistakes are OK”. People who believe that mistakes are a natural part of learning are more confident about trying new things. “That’s OK. We all make mistakes. It’s how we learn. Now you know to do it differently the next time.”
• Be a "Strengths Detective”. Pointing out your children’s strengths is a much better confidence-builder than focusing on their limitations. Sometimes, if their behaviour is challenging, it is hard to see their strengths. But all children have them. If we encourage activities that build on their strengths, it motivates them to develop interests they enjoy. When this happens, we often see an improvement in their behaviour
• Give your children lots of time to just play. When children play they can take the time they need to master activities that interest them. This builds confidence and motivation to try new things. Playing also promotes development of flexible thinking and creative problem-solving skills.
• Set children up for success. Encourage them to do a task one step at a time. This helps children see their progress step-by-step and motivates them to keep trying. Give them things to do that they are capable of, but also challenge them to learn something new. Activities that gently stretch your children’s abilities help them tolerate small amounts of “healthy” stress. This shows them that effort is needed to learn new things and solve problems. It also helps them learn to deal with frustrations in daily life.
• Offer choices. Simple choices build children’s confidence by giving them the chance to make decisions and have some control.
– Keep it simple. Offer only 2 or 3 choices so your children don’t feel overwhelmed. “Do you want to have a banana or a yogurt for snack?” or “It’s cold outside. Do you want to wear your hat or pull up your hood?”
– Encourage cooperation. Offer choices that encourage your children to do what you need them to do. Cooperation is more likely if they feel they have some control in the situation. For example, you can say “Dinner is ready. Do you want to wash your hands yourself? Or do you want my help?” or “It’s time for bed, do you want to walk up the stairs or do you want Daddy to carry you?”
– Keep safety in mind. For example, we don’t give children a choice about wearing a seat belt, bike helmet or holding hands when we cross a busy street.
– Encourage your children’s positive choices. “You made a good choice to put on your mittens. Now you can really play in the snow!” or “You’re getting along so well with your sister! It was a great choice to share the blocks.”
• Help your children be assertive. Children who stand up for themselves are less likely to be bullied. You can help your children set limits with their brothers, sisters, and friends by practicing how to say “No!” or “I don’t like that!” using an assertive voice and body language.
• Teach your children ways to solve problems and resolve conflicts. Help children 3 years and older identify the problem and think of positive solutions. “There is a problem here because you both want to play with the yellow car. That’s making you feel unhappy/angry/sad. Let’s think of some ideas to solve the problem.” Then step back and let them try the solutions for themselves.
• Read or tell children stories about how others develop their strengths and confidence.
• Encourage your children to take responsibility by helping with daily chores. It’s often easier to do things yourself, but children benefit when you let them help out. It gives them a chance to cooperate, learn new skills and feel a sense of accomplishment.
• Encourage your children to think of small ways to help others. Perhaps they could get a toy or a nappy to help you with a younger child. Or they could make a card for someone who isn’t feeling well.
• Involve your children when you help others. Let them pitch in when you help an elderly relative/neighbour shop, rake leaves or take out their rubbish. This helps children practice kindness, compassion and empathy.
• Help your children learn about and value their own culture. Involve them in family traditions to celebrate their heritage. This helps your children feel good about their own identity and connects them to a larger community.
• Encourage participation in nursery/school/community activities that build your children’s talents and interests (like sports, music, art, etc.). This helps identify their strengths and gives direction, purpose and enjoyment.
• Read or tell children stories about others who help out and get involved in community activities.
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Thought for the Month
Look for what your child can do – instead of what they can’t do, and celebrate how they do things, as well as what they achieve.
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