Secrets from one who has walked in your footsteps…stepping on legos and cheerios
By Rachel E. Stoyanov, FPSS, MCF’s Midshore Regional Team
I teach lots of classes these days, and parents of preschoolers always want to know the secret to happy, compliant “easy” kids. I can let the cat out of the bag for you today! The secret is building a bond as a family. You can do this by becoming an engaged parent and developing a “magical mindset.” A magical mindset means removing your heavy adult frame of mind and thinking like a little kid thinks. It means seeing the world around you with those young eyes. Trees are taller, bugs are cool, dirt feels and smells amazing. You have so much magic inside you! Here’s how you can use it.
- See the world from their perspective.
To little folks, the “grown up” things we do look VERY cool. Think about the first time you saw a parent cut the grass, or the way your grandmother could make a pie at home—no trip to the bakery required! In my own family, I remember how my grandfather taught his dogs all kinds of amazing tricks, and how we tended a garden made from seeds started in a milk carton bottom. To a young onlooker, these bits of everyday life look like magic. These small acts represent freedom and independence. It is why our kids always make the mistake of saying they can’t wait to grow up!
- Remember and share your own childhood.
Tell stories about things you did when you were your child’s age, and then do them! When I was a kid, we didn’t have iPhones to scroll while we took long Sunday rides, so instead, we counted “Punch Buggies” and played “I Spy.” We were busy talking, laughing, counting and comparing – these are the cornerstones to learning. Looking back, the long Maryland summers I spent at home with my family created a secure attachment, taught me skills I needed and still use every day of my life, and allowed me to find the places in the world where I could thrive. While all that was happening, we were building a bond as a family.
- Make intentional time to teach and talk with your child.
Take time to listen to music, talk walks, and look at the world around you--unplugged. To connect and build the bond with our children, we must disconnect ourselves from our phones and media and become intentional about sharing our magic with our kids. Allow the pace to be leisurely and provide your child the opportunity to contribute to the conversation. Get to know your child’s preferences, and use your “very cool grown up” influence to help guide them as they navigate their day.
- Let your child help around the house.
Allow your littles to help with the laundry, sort clothes, and carry their own clothes to their spaces. You can keep a little one plenty busy by sending them up and down the stairs for all kinds of purposes, from daily chores to scavenger hunts. This is a great way to get trash picked up, things carried from floor to floor, or clothes moved from the laundry room to the proper area.
- Remember that support is there when you need it.
Let’s be honest--when you have a child with a behavioral health challenge, sometimes you feel overwhelmed and wonder where the magic is. Let me encourage you: it is still there. Take the time to learn about things that may help with your child’s needs. Engage with one of our Family Peer Support Specialists--we have lots of fresh ideas and we’ve encountered your same challenges. Your child is unique, special, and with your help, will find his or her way in the world.
There are so many rewards to building a strong and loving bond with your child. A securely bonded child will listen faster, transition easier, and behave more appropriately because you have taken the time to allow them to really know you. Their appropriate responses are a part of the dialogue you have been building while you do everyday things together, like laundry, cooking, or playing with pets. Your child will remember the things you say when you take a walk together or endure a rainy day at home in a blanket fort. The time you take to talk to your little ones and see the world through their eyes: this is the secret. You’re sowing seeds of love, trust and patience that will serve you through all the things that can change in your child’s world. Build the bond. It’s magic.