OK, so from the outset, I need to give this article a disclaimer.
"We are NOT perfect parents".
Not. Even. Close.
But, somehow and against all odds with two slightly crazy, completely driven and ridiculously busy parents, our two kids have turned out pretty damn well. In fact, they're awesome. Which begs the question, "What are we doing right?".
To be perfectly honest, who the hell knows, but upon reflection, here are the 5 things that seem to work for us.
Childhood is both new and challenging for our kids. They have to learn self-control. Empathy. Friendship. Social niceties. And all the while watching their parents break the rules, they're told (or that might be just us). Nevertheless, these are very big things for kid and having something as simple as a morning and evening routine can help kids feel grounded and relaxed. In fact, knowing what to expect at mealtimes, mornings and bedtimes can bring a sense of relief to even the most carefree child. We're not super strict on the timings, but our kids know all the things that need to happen and it makes for a far more accepting home.
2. Early Bedtimes
Being strict on early bedtimes (even now that they're 6 and 9) might well be the single best thing we ever did. We all know that sleep is the building block for healthy brain development because it helps us process the days events and learn from them. But between school, extra-curricular activities and tech time, it seems that kids are going to bed later and later AND having more trouble settling for the night. Our children's brains are constantly developing and creating new neural connections. This requires sleep and so one of the most basic things you can do for your kids health and well-being is to get them the sleep they need.
We're called Hugs for Kids for a reason. There is a saying by respected family therapist, Virginia Satir that I love:
“We need four hugs a day for survival. We need eight hugs a day for maintenance. We need twelve hugs a day for growth.”
You see, hugging actually triggers the release of oxytocin, the feel-good hormone has many important effects on our bodies. One of them is growth stimulation. In fact, studies have shown that hugging can instantly boost the level of oxytocin. When oxytocin is increased, several growth hormones are increased as well. and let's face it, it's not only good for us, it's awesome.
4. Reading To Them
In my opinion, one of the most important things parents can do for their kids is to read with them. We read to our kids from Day 1 and continue to this day. So many studies have shown that reading with kids helps them learn to speak, interact, bond with their family and begin to read early themselves. And even though our lot can read themselves,reading together and telling stories is still one of my favourite family moments.
It sounds counter-productive to hear the toy shop owner saying that kids need less things and more experiences, but it's true. When they grow up, it’s not the stuff they had that they'll remember, it’s that time you tried to catch tadpoles at the lake, or when you taught them to ride a bike. The good news is that the best life experiences usually cost little to nothing, like a picnic in the park, blowing bubbles or throwing a ball around, but they all have one thing in common: you do them together. What kids really want in life is quality time spent with their parents.
In summary, it's not rocket science - we love them to death and spend quality time with them. In fact that's why we started Hugs, so we could.