Sometimes we are so caught up in the heat of friction within our child-parent relationships that we forget to take a step back, think objectively about what developmental needs our children have, and use that information to inform our parenting decisions.
What is the most important thing we can do to support our children right now?
Throughout all stages, our children need some of the same basic things. The CDC sums it up well, “Having a safe and loving home and spending time with family―playing, singing, reading, and talking―are very important. Proper nutrition, exercise, and sleep also can make a big difference.”
When feeling overwhelmed, by trying to do all the things, I think it is helpful to keep these things in mind. These are the foundation for the development of a healthy child. Not just their physical health, but also their emotional and social development.
First things first, if the above are not in place in your home, focus on incorporating those things into your daily routine. Choose the item which is the most lacking in your home to focus on first. Remember to take small steps. For example, if you eat out of boxes every night, choose one night a week where you can make a fresh homemade dinner.
Don’t set yourself up for failure by trying to make broad sweeping changes all at the same time. Pick one area and one doable improvement. If all goes well and it becomes an easy routine to keep up, then after a month or two, you can pick another area and another small step.
With these basics in place, we will be providing our children with the foundation they need. These needs do not stop when your child moves out of the early child development phase. Your school-aged children and teens still have an intense need for all of these things.
Whenever dealing with behavior or learning issues, take a step back, and scrutinize the daily lifestyle you have set up for your children. Look deeply and ruthlessly at this list of needs and also recognize that some children have a more intense need for large quantities of some of these things than other.
For example, one of my teens loves salad, he eats a lot of green food and veggies, in addition to a large variety and quantity of other food. However, his body still needs a strong multi-vitamin, or he starts to get sluggish.
Another child has always had a very intense need for movement. Where some kids can run around the yard for 30 minutes a day and be happy and healthy, this child needs about two hours a day of intense, structured physical activity. If he does not get this his brain seems to just float away into a strange abyss and he cannot cognate for the life of him.
When troubleshooting your parenting life, look to the basics. Don’t let the details of your child’s struggle fool you into concentrating on the wrong thing. If the foundation under a wall is crooked, and the wall is falling over, no amount of painting or decorating the wall will fix the problem. You will be amazed at what huge changes in behavior can come about when you find your child’s basic need and fill it up.