Raising a family is a work in progress. A supportive structure brimming with love, happiness and encouragement is the foundation of good parenting, while personal, social and emotional developments are the building blocks of well-rounded children. By Natasha Liviero, contributions by Joanna Kleovoulou, Clinical Psychologist from PsychMatters Centre

Here’s a brief rundown of the important developments parents need to facilitate during a child’s early years:

Developing self-confidence and awareness.

This aspect includes teaching children how to be confident about themselves and their abilities. Children should be encouraged to try new activities and to build personal interests and passions. These efforts should be praised with parents being mindful of what they say, not only for a job well done, but for the efforts made as well. “Help your child become involved in constructive experiences such as activities that encourage co-operation, rather than competition, as these are especially helpful in fostering self-esteem,” says Psychologist, Joanna Kleovoulou, from PsychMatters in Johannesburg.

Managing feelings and behaviour.

Children need to be taught how to understand their own feelings as well as those of others. This will help them cope with emotions when things don’t go their own way and learn how to behave in different settings. As children mirror those around them, parents are responsible for setting a good example of how they interact with each other and other people. “Create a safe, nurturing home environment as a child who is exposed to parents repetitive fighting may become depressed and withdrawn,” warns Joanna Kleovoulou.

Interacting and building relationships.

This is an area that even adults struggle with! It’s about teaching children how to develop friendships, to be kind and to ‘play nicely’ with others, while also creating an understanding of why people behave in certain ways. It is also important to monitor a child’s inaccurate self-beliefs. “Helping your child to set more accurate standards, and to be more realistic in evaluating themselves, will help him or her to develop a healthy self-concept,” says Joanna Kleovoulou from PsychMatters.

“Building your child’s self esteem is your child’s armour to face any challenge or developmental stage in his or her life. Children who feel good about themselves seem to have an easier time handling conflicts and resisting negative pressures. They are more expansive and more willing to reach out to the world in creating and maintaining friendships, as well as being more resilient and having emotional control.” Clinical Psychologist, Joanna Kleovoulou

Five life lessons to teach your kids

  1. Work hard and exceed expectations.

    A great quality that will take your child far in life! Working hard and going above and beyond what is expected, whether at school, work or in a relationship, shows initiative and puts you ahead of the rest, paving a solid path to success.

  2. Relationships take work.

    Take the time to listen, praise and to show interest in the things that are important to your children, and teach them to do the same for others. Similarly, they need to learn to treat people fairly and to make amends when they behave badly, skills that will transfer well into adulthood.

  3. Happiness is a choice.

    Relying on other people to put a smile on your face is setting yourself up for disappointment. Teach your child to find peace and happiness within themselves and in the things they enjoy doing, not other people.

  4. Be considerate.

    No one likes rude, self-serving children (or adults)! Courtesy, consideration and respect for other people is another important life skill, which should be coupled with encouraging children to not judge others without ‘walking in their shoes!’

  5. Choose your battles.

    Life is hard enough without fretting the small stuff! Children should be taught to only tackle battles that really matter. A good measure is to ask: “Will this matter in a week’s time? ” or “Does this impact my long term happiness?” If the answer is no, encourage them to redirect their attention (and emotions) in a more positive direction!

Sources: Joanna Kleovoulou www.psychmatters.co.za; www.earlyyearsmatters.co.uk; www.parents.com

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