Raising children who are confident, positive and resilient is what every parent wants. It might seem like an overwhelming task, and raise questions about where to even start. But by breaking down the ways we can help into smaller, day-to-day actions, empowering our kids becomes a more achievable goal.
These actions are largely made up of communication: regularly touching base with your kids, listening to what they say and, importantly, looking out for cues to open discussions that might make a world of difference in the long run.
READ MORE: Your guide to children's health
Let kids experience negative emotions
Every child is going through a lot as they grow up. From little ones who might be struggling with big emotions, through to bigger kids dealing with social and physical changes, they all have their battles – battles which, in turn, are forming part of their life story.
While a parent’s instinct is often to shield your offspring from these struggles, the best approach is to instead guide them through each experience.
“We can’t force happiness on them by making everything go right for them, and that’s one of the most difficult parts of parenting,” says Martine Oglethorpe, child psychologist from The Modern Parent.
“Instead, we need our kids to know that feeling anger, disappointment, sadness and hurt is important and normal. We need to give them the skills to deal with setbacks.”
This approach – also known as building resilience – will help to set them up for coping with a future that will inevitably be dotted with challenges. Showing your children that they can overcome life’s obstacles can empower them to feel positive and confident in their abilities and in the fact that life will get better again.
If this seems like a huge responsibility, begin in a small way: talk to your kids about how you get through setbacks at a day-to-day level.
READ MORE: The science of happy kids
Role modelling: a simple, effective strategy
Most aspects of positive parenting begin with role modelling the behaviours that you want to see in your kids- a strategy that we can all use.
“What they see is what they learn” is a common mantra about how children observe their world carefully, and the things they see you doing are what they consider normal.
Research suggests that eating dinner as a family each evening creates happier kids, and this ritual is a great opportunity to practise this idea of role modelling. Talking to your children about their day can give them a sense of relief and stability, and shows them how to engage in effective communication.
This is, experts say, the key to raising happy, empowered kids: giving them your time and attention.
“Your kids remember the time you spend with them,” says Oglethorpe. “When they have your undivided attention – even for short bursts of time – kids feel reassured that you’ll listen to their small concerns right through to their biggest worries.”
Oglethorpe adds that this is the major focus of raising confident, happy children: “Don’t try to materialistically give them happiness. Instead, give it to them emotionally.”