Foundations for the Future

When a parent sees a child playing in the park with his friends, we sometimes glimpse a shade of what he will be like as he gets older.  We sense the older body in the younger one, we can see the mannerisms that will one day take shape as preteen reactions. There is a part of parenting that looks forward to the older child even as we sit admiring the child we have today.

The future focus of parenting turns our thoughts to preparing our child to be the teen who will overcome the inevitable difficulties involved in growing older.  We hope he will be happy and strong and able to face challenges. We worry that the choices he makes will not suit him well or keep him healthy. Already as we look to our preschooler in the park, we sometimes consider how to protect him from falling into the use of drugs, keep him on a path that will ensure academic and social success, teach him to focus on his own health when faced with peer pressure to partake of a chemical or activity that can hurt him. How do we help to lay the foundation for a strong young adult when we are currently faced with a strong-willed young child?

Although it is hard to see the link between the preschool years and the teen years, there are many things a parent can do to reinforce values around making healthy choices, avoiding unhealthy chemical use, and finding ways to manage stress in a way that focuses on problem solving rather than avoidance. These  age appropriate strategies build a foundation of open communication and information-sharing which can help families talk about the situations preschoolers face, and find ways to address and support each other.

  • Talk to your child about the healthy choices you are making as a family
  • Celebrate your child’s ability to make decisions – choosing an outfit for the day provides good practice at decision making
  • Turn frustration into learning opportunities – find ways to work through a frustrating situation and focus on problem solving

Sometimes a child will notice the people around him are making unhealthy choices and ask about it. These conversations can be difficult to have – especially if the people who are making these choices are people you love and want to support. There are ways to approach your child’s questions in an age-appropriate way that supports your values while still supporting your family members.

  • Reinforce that adults can make decisions about themselves, but that you agree that sometimes adults make unhealthy choices
  • Talk to your child about the medicines and vitamins he sees you or others use. Stress that these medicines can help the person they are designed for, but could make others sick

We can not be sure of what the future holds. We will not be able to safe guard our children through every situation, and they will make mistakes as they grow. Use these early conversations to establish a family habit of open communication, support and learning from mistakes, and a modeling of healthy choices.


Trust-Yourself Parenting

Parenting is an overwhelming task.  And that may be an understatement!  The questions parents have about the “right” way to do it are often answered in different ways depending on the book / website / person giving advice.  A piece of our own heart is living inside this other small person, and our strongest desire is to do the best we can.  But what is the best way?

The staff of the Hopkins Early Childhood programs want to remind you that often the “right” way to approach parenting is by doing what works best for you and your family. The reams of books, the sensational websites, the scary stories from others, these are all just part of the information picture.  In our Hopkins Early Childhood Family Education classes parents often come to the conclusion – correctly so – that using the reliable facts available, depending on the support of parents whom you trust, and considering your own child and family situation often results in a parenting decision that works for you.

Trusting yourself is an approach to parenting that takes some time, and it certainly doesn’t mean making decisions based on the whim of the fads around parenting. It does, however, allow us to realize that we have many of the answers. We need to prioritize the time to discuss and consider the options, but we have the answers.  Our staff would like to offer a few suggestions for moving confidently into parenting.

  • Give yourself time: The decisions you make about the care of your child should happen when you are calm. A rushed decision in the spur of the moment does not often result in a response that you can trust. Clear some space for yourself and your partners in parenting, and give these decisions the time they deserve.
  • Be thoughtful, not reactive: We often react to childhood memories when thinking about raising our own children.  We often react to our parenting partner’s approach when it is different than ours. We often react to our fear around how overwhelming parenting can be. Many of the decisions we make do tend to be influenced by our own childhood, and there is value in taking this into consideration. Take the time to consider your past and your experience. Consider the lessons learned as well as the positives. Then choose the parenting path that makes the most sense to your new family. As you are taking the time to talk about your parenting decisions, ask yourself this question, “Am I reacting, or am I considering all options?”
  • Ask for support from parents you admire: We all have people in our lives who we admire. We see their parenting approach, and we like how it works for them. Ask questions of the people you think best fit your perspective in parenting. The people you most appreciate are not likely to try to scare you or push you in one parenting direction. Find the people in your life most likely to listen to you and help you clarify your thoughts, rather than push their position too hard.
  • Gather information from trusted sources: Parents you most admire are a good start.  Ask these people for the books and websites they felt were most helpful.  ECFE is a great option for support, gathering information, and learning to trust yourself. The exchange of ideas from parents in your same situation is so valuable when you are considering multiple options and angles in parenting decisions.
  • Give yourself a break: Don’t aim to be the perfect parent. There are no perfect parents. We will all make mistakes during this parenting journey. Our kids will forgive us, especially when we acknowledge our mistakes, learn from the experience, and shift course.