Psychological stress is an inevitable part of human life. If it is not addressed at the right time, its toxic effects can last long and impair a child’s development.
For school-going children, academic stress forms a large part of their experience. The stress-inducers include pressure to perform academically well, the pressure to fit in, peer-pressure, and expectations from parents. This stress is palpable in children even as young as 6 to 7 years old.
While this stress cannot be eliminated, it can certainly be controlled and addressed. In the fast-paced world, we live, attention of parents towards children is highly skewed. On the one side, we have helicopter parents who stunt their children’s growth by constantly hovering. On the other, we have parents who use material comforts to make up for their lack of attention and leave their children emotionally empty. Therefore, it is highly imperative to strike a balance between necessary attention and healthy neglect.
The tips listed below are intended to allow children a healthy childhood.
Tip 1: Listen attentively to your children
Children are very eager to share their thoughts, feelings, fears, and experiences. Whether it is an achievement at school or a fight with a friend or the fear of the dark, treat them the same. Give them a patient ear and listen attentively without judgement or advice. This consistent practice will allow them to gain trust to share the big challenges with you as they grow. If they do not feel like sharing, do not push them. Tell them explicitly and implicitly through your words and actions that you are always up for listening.
Tip 2: Respect children’s emotions
A huge part of a child’s development is to identify and engage with their own emotions. Respect every one of their emotions. Help them identify what they are feeling and express it clearly. Do not invalidate or label their feelings as good or bad. Teach them how to address their emotions in a healthy way. This is the foundation for healthy relationships.
Tip 3: Give them your undivided attention for a fixed time every day
For a specific time every day, make them the centre of your world. Shower them with attention without any distractions of office work, household work, or gadgets. Allow them to decide how they want to spend this time with you. Acknowledgement and appreciation go a long way.
Tip 4: Engage with them in hands-on activities
In their formative years, it is important for them to channelise their physical energy in healthy pursuits. Play with them, read with them, run with them, solve puzzles with them. Include as much diversity as you can in these activities. This is crucial to identify their inherent intelligences and nurture them. It is also useful to expose them to various areas and develop the auxiliary intelligences.
Tip 5: Teach them the skills to manage their schoolwork on time
From a very young age, teach them the skills of time management and work management. Making a timetable, identifying tasks to complete, completing work 100% – these are important skills that they will carry through their life. This will also ensure that they learn discipline.
Tip 6: Set boundaries and allow them freedom within those boundaries
Clearly identify and communicate boundaries – of time, of space, of any other important parameter. Within these boundaries, do not micromanage. Allow them the freedom to plan, execute, fail, pick themselves up and move forward. This will build their independent thinking skills and resilience.
Tip 7: Create a balance between structured and unstructured activities in their daily routine
Balance out structured and scheduled activities (Eg: school time, food time, nap time) with free-flowing activities (Eg: play time, social time). Do not fill the day with so many scheduled activities that there is no room for spontaneity.
Tip 8: Factor in time for them to “do nothing”
This is the most important point. Do not expect a child to follow a grown-up’s schedule. Even grown-ups need reflection time. Children need not be productive. They need to be creative, happy, engaged, loved, and nurtured. “Nothing time” is the crucial time when cognitive processing happens. Cognitive processing is critical for learning. Learning happens through reflection. Reflection needs free time when their focus is not actively engaged. This time is very crucial for their brain’s development.
None of this is rocket science. These practices are not new either. It takes conscious effort to make them happen on a regular basis. This effort is worthwhile when it is a matter of our children’s healthy and happy childhood.