When your kids are little, your main goal is to keep them alive. After all, it’s your responsibility to clean, feed and protect them. So, for the first few years of their life, that’s exactly what you do. However, there comes a time when they don’t have to rely on you for everything. Eventually, they learn to take care of themselves and make their own decisions. When they do, you’ll take on the role of helping your children thrive.
This new responsibility may require a slightly different mindset, one that allows room for mistakes, sadness and even injury. Of course, you’ll never stop loving or protecting your kids, but helping them thrive does entail some risk.
Here are a few ways you can help your little ones thrive — and be an amazing parent — as they grow into the person they were always meant to be.
1. Encourage Free Play
One of the best things you can do for your child is let them play freely. In play, kids learn how to navigate their physical and social environment and respond appropriately. They also learn how to imagine new realities, problem solve in real time and manage their emotions. All of these skills will be especially important as they grow through adolescence into adulthood.
Plan for play or schedule in downtime and allow your little ones to experience boredom until they recover the presence to self-direct and act on their curiosities. Provide open-ended toys, craft supplies and other materials to further encourage free play.
2. Establish Boundaries
Establishing boundaries can also make room for playtime and help your kids embrace a dynamic, impassioned life. Try creating healthy boundaries by limiting screen time and scheduling time for them to be alone. Develop a routine so they don’t have to battle their own impulses. Rather, they can live and play within these structural boundaries and confidently face each day.
Putting up boundaries can also keep your children safe while also allowing them to make mistakes. For example, keeping the kids within the boundaries of a fence will protect them from the dangers of the street. However, they’ll still have the space and freedom to play however they choose, even if that means they sustain minor bumps, scrapes and bruises.
3. Take Sensory Breaks
Whether your child attends school virtually or in-person, it’s important that they take frequent sensory breaks. As teachers become more aware of childrens’ holistic and mental well-being, many are incorporating meditation and breath exercises to help students decompress throughout the day. These activities can also minimize sensory overload so children can thrive both in and out of the classroom.
If your little one is taking online classes, schedule sensory breaks together. Shut your laptops and take a few moments to stretch or dance out your anxiety and tension. Then, quiet your minds with meditation or deep breathing so you both can focus on the next class or client meeting without feeling overwhelmed.
4. Make Goals… and Mistakes
You tell your kids that they can accomplish anything they put their minds to, but do you actively help them achieve their dreams? Maybe they want to learn how to do a cartwheel or get all As next year. Support them by helping them make specific, measurable goals they can achieve and celebrate along the way to reaching their bigger aspirations. Write them down and revisit them often so they can track their progress and stay motivated.
Of course, letting your child mess up and fail is equally important on the road to success — and entirely normal. Instead of holding your kids to unrealistic expectations, create space for them to make mistakes and, more importantly, learn from them. Often, what you see as a mistake might look more like an opportunity to your kids.
5. Appreciate the Little Things
As an adult, many of life’s little moments are lost amidst the busyness of life. However, it’s a collection of these moments that makes our lives worth living. They take you from surviving to thriving in a heartbeat, and the same is true for your kids. Learning to notice and appreciate the little things can improve their heart health, strengthen the immune system and ultimately lead to a longer, happier life.
Instead of losing yourselves in the monotony of life and mindlessly moving about your day, look for a reason to smile. Better yet, cultivate good vibes by finding opportunities to enjoy nature, a few minutes of quiet and the company of others. Teach your little one how to garden, have a picnic with friends or lay down and gaze up at the stars for a bit. As your kids grow, they’ll continue to look for opportunities to relax, take a deep breath and practice gratitude, too.
Giving Kids Space to Grow
In order for your kids to truly thrive, you must step back and give them space to grow. As terrifying as it might be, you must allow them to make their own mistakes, solve problems independently and experience their emotions fully. Be a listening ear and a shoulder to cry on instead of a blind savior that swoops in at the first sign of trouble.
As your children grow, they’ll appreciate this space and learn to self-soothe and become a happy, healthy confident adult. What more could you hope for as a parent?