How parenting influences child development: Four tips for raising a happy, healthy child and equipping them with life-changing tools

How parenting influences child development: Four tips for raising a happy, healthy child and equipping them with life-changing tools

  • You can set your child up for success by teaching them how to live a happy, healthy life and equipping them with beneficial tools.
  • One parenting technique that can help you accomplish this mission is simply being honest with yourself—are you being the supportive parent or the pushy parent?
  • Practicing empathy and validation can also make for a happier child, in that it relieves them of stress and anxiety.
  • Another tool you can utilize for effective parenting is mindfulness: use this tool to reduce anxiety and teach your child about it as well.
  • Perhaps most importantly, guide them in solidifying healthy lifestyle habits such as getting the proper amount of sleep and eating a nutritious diet.

Your approach to parenting can, and likely will, have lasting effects on your child for years to come. Now, I’m not saying this to scare or intimidate you, but to motivate you to put some real effort and love into your relationship with your child. (Granted, you will make a few mistakes or have a few hiccups along the way, and that’s okay—it comes with the territory.) Emily Roberts, LPC, is here to explain a few basic tips for raising a happy, healthy child and teaching them beneficial tools for thriving in life:

1) Be honest with yourself.

Roberts says to ask yourself, “Am I the contributor or supporter?” She explains it’s important to encourage your kids… but there’s a big difference between encouraging or supporting your kids and pushing them: “Some parents unwittingly heap stress on their kids by talking frequently about tests and sending the message that they measure their child’s worth in terms of grades and test scores. Some parents think that if they don’t push their kids, they are being irresponsible. But pushing them while they are stressed and anxious, instead of guiding and assisting them, will only create more anxiety. They need your support, not another teacher or coach.”

2) Practice validation and empathy.

Another important key to raising a healthy child and strengthening your relationship is practicing validation and empathy. “Using empathy to try and identify what they are feeling can be a huge relief to a stressed out child,” Roberts explains. “If your son comes in pouting, try, ‘Hey buddy, it looks like you had a rough day, wanna talk about it?’ Instead of ‘you have to get to baseball or get started on homework.’ And validate why they may be feeling this way: ‘I know it’s the end of the year, and I bet it’s pretty overwhelming, thinking about tests and what we are going to do this summer.’ If they are not answering you or you feel stuck, try this simple phrase: ‘Can you help me understand how you are feeling?’”

3) Reduce worry with mindfulness.

Parents should also utilize mindfulness as a tool in parenting and introduce their children to this stress-relieving technique. “Mindfulness-based stress reduction is highly researched and a very effective approach with children and adults. Simply put, using the body to help guide us, we can use progressive muscle relaxation, guided meditation, breathing exercises, and other tools to reduce anxiety and its intensity,” says Roberts. “When practiced regularly, especially when the child is NOT in an anxious state, the mind becomes more aware and capable of managing emotions when they come up. This mental practice can rewire the brain. Anything mindful, meditative that involves breath work and body awareness can retrain the mind.”

4) Guide them in making healthy lifestyle decisions.

And finally, set your child up for success by creating healthy habits, such as those regarding sleep and nutrition: “As parents, you can help your child reduce end of school stress by creating a calm environment, even at night. Encourage books shut and computer off by a reasonable hour, 1-2 hours before bed. Distract from their studies by doing something as a family (their brains aren’t going to forget the information). Read a book, play a game, or watch a TV show together. Have a bedtime routine and try a guided bedtime relaxation to help their mind move away from the triggers or things they can’t control.” Roberts goes on to say that parents should make sure their kids are eating every 3-4 hours. “A blood sugar imbalance can make anxiety higher and emotions more intense,” she explains. “Aim to have protein, a healthy fat, and carbohydrates with each snack to maintain blood sugar and manage emotions.”

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