Parenting - probably the most important job of anyone’s life. And yet there is no formal training or real preparation for it. Here are five key tips:
1. ‘Only connect.’
As author E. M. Forster put it, ‘Only connect’, meaning that the important thing is to establish a real and grounded connection with your children which is attuned to them and their personal needs. Encourage the child to feel safe and can manage difficulties in the outside world. Joy is key. They need to understand that happiness is the ‘defualt position’ in life, and that communication is a good thing.
2. Look after yourself.
From sleep deprivation - which can lead to irritability and serious ill health - through to stress, anxiety or depression, the parent is subject to a barrage of difficulties that no text book can prepare him or her for. You’ll need support - from a partner, from friends, from school, from family, not necessarily in that order. Parenting can be an isolating experience, and you have to make sure that you are keeping your head above water because you have responsibility for more than just yourself now. Working parents can find being a parent really stressful. It’s important to know what it is that makes you feel good and able to be calm, so you can better support your children.
3. Give children space.
Allow children to ‘be’ and don’t pack every minute full of things to ‘do’. They’ll get exhausted from all the pressure and expectation. They need to have time and space to become self-aware. Then they are more likely to talk about their feelings. Spend just 10 minutes joining your child's world - listening, joining in, following their play. Discuss everyday situations, in books, at school, with their friends. Help children to develop a vocabulary for talking about life.
4. Encourage resilience.
Be sensitive and learn to judge how much to support your child; help them notice what they have done, help them think and create..
5. Treat them as you would wish to be treated.
This is the most powerful tip of all because it gives you an instant measure of what to do in any given situation. Treat children as though they were you, with kindness, forethought, sensitivity, generosity and fairness.