Now that my eldest son has celebrated his 25th birthday, I’ve been reflecting on what I’ve learnt in a quarter of a century of motherhood and bringing up three kids. What are the keys to raising mentally strong, healthy kids who have the self-worth, self-belief and emotional resilience to thrive in today’s crazy world?
Parenting is tough. And it’s tougher than ever in the times we live in. I think we need to take a breath and recognize that. I’ve spent a lot of time feeling guilty and ”less than” over the years. I’ve flailed about, despaired, lashed out, cried and screamed. I’ve been brought to my knees from sheer exhaustion.
I am no supermum…but I am good enough. And that’s one of the things I’ve learned in this last 25 years: being a good enough parent is all that’s needed.
Raising happy, healthy kids doesn’t require “perfect” parenting
We’ve set the bar way too high for parenting. We’re human beings, we’re fallible, we make mistakes…lots of them. That’s part and parcel of life and of being a parent. Kids have been growing up with non-perfect parents since the dawn of time. Let’s take the pressure off ourselves and accept that it’s actually helpful for our kids to see us mess up – and get back up again.
What I’ve learned in 25 years of being a mum
1. Our kids are not mini clones of ourselves
2. It’s not our job to erase any difficulty or unhappiness from our kids’ lives
3. Kids need guardrails (AKA boundaries)
Guardrails make kids feel secure. They need boundaries. Although it can seem easier to avoid setting boundaries in the hope of dodging any risk of confrontation or melt-downs, that doesn’t help our kids to thrive. We need to get comfortable with the “no” word: with being firm (while still being compassionate and kind). For more on this, have a listen to my podcast conversation with Terri Creeden of Grounded Parents Group.
4. We don’t need to rush to sort out all our kids’ problems
5. Don’t hand out rewards for good exam results (and ask grandparents not to do this either)
6. Aim to create a calm(ish) home
7. Respect their point of view, even when you vehemently disagree with it
8. Don’t panic if they get less-than-glowing reports from school
9. Good habits are more useful than knowledge
10. Choose your battles wisely
11. Know your red lines and stick to them
12. It’s okay for our kids to get angry with us
13. Never compare one child with another
14. Prioritize good sleep habits
15. Kids see right through us when we’re being hypocritical
16. Kids make mistakes: accept them and move on
17. Family rituals are scaffolding for kids
18. Encourage your kids to understand healthy eating and how to put a meal together
To grow into healthy adults, kids need to understand how to prepare healthy food. Knowing how to balance their blood sugar and nourish themselves will support them with their mental focus, emotional regulation, energy levels – and help to protect their health in the long-term. Listening to their body and honouring its needs is a key life skill. Have a look at my blog on four healthy breakfasts to keep you full till lunchtime.
19. Chat to people of all ages and backgrounds in front of your kids
20. Put your own wellbeing first
I used to subscribe to the prevailing ideology that mums should martyr themselves and feel guilty about any crumb of me-time. Now I understand this: the single biggest thing that affects our kids’ wellbeing is our own wellbeing. If we want our kids to be mentally strong, healthy, balanced, fulfilled human beings, that’s what we need to cultivate in ourselves. And that begins with our own self-care. (Do have a listen to my podcast conversation with Zoe Blaskey of Motherkind on this topic).
21. We don’t need to devote every waking hour to our kids
22. Buying them more stuff doesn’t make kids more content
23. Role model what you’d like for your kids
24. We don’t own our kids
25. Love them and accept them – with no strings attached
There you have some of my thoughts on raising mentally strong kids. It’s not an exhaustive list, by any means. Plus, I’m constantly readjusting my approach to parenting as I continue to learn “on the job”. You can hear me talking more about what I’ve learnt so far in my podcast episode: What I’ve learnt in 25 years of being a mum.
If you’re looking to improve your own lifestyle habits, boost your emotional resilience and be a role model to your kids, I invite you to join me on my Freshly Minted membership. I’ll gently support you through the process of making small, sustainable lifestyle changes that will transform your wellbeing – and ripple out to your whole family.
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