How can you strive to establish the foundations of health and wellbeing in your family? First and foremost, I cannot emphasize enough the importance of your children knowing and feeling your love and dedication to them. Your love, your caring, your focus and attention—these qualities provide the underpinning from which your children will grow. Your love is fertile soil. It provides security and stability in their lives, and therefore nurtures their Self, to bud and eventually blossom. What is most essential for your children’s health and wellbeing is to be loved and respected by you, and to feel a sense of peaceful belonging in your family.
Since to feel loved is our greatest need throughout life, establish health and wellbeing in your families by focusing on how loving each family member is to one another. How do you talk with one another? Do siblings put one another down or make fun of each other? If so (think this all through before acting), stop that behavior right now. Make sure none of you—including you with your spouse—are saying negative/shaming/or put down things to one another. Is it safe for each family member to be genuinely who they are? Do you allow for individual differences and delight in the uniqueness you each bring to your home? Do you show respect for one another—in words and actions? Do you feel accepted exactly as you are? The world is full of expectations and we live with the need to please others our whole lives— in parent/child relationships, marriage, work, school, sports, performance, etc. It is fine to encourage your children to “do their best”, to try hard, and to be earnest and steadfast. Just make sure that your recognition and appreciation of them is not only a response to accomplishments. Instead, stand in awe of the miracle your child is. Accept the complete package of their personality, temperament and body, as well as their unique perspectives, beliefs, feelings and thoughts. Let them know you delight in who they are during ordinary moments of everyday life.
In addition to creating a home where it is safe to be genuine, where one feels respected and accepted, it is vital for you as a parent to work on your empathy skills in order to truly understand your child. Let me define empathy for you: it basically means “walks a mile in my shoes”. Namely, take off your “shoes”—your thoughts, beliefs, interpretations, values—and put on my shoes. It means attempting with everything in your power (your mind, heart, body and intuitive self) to listen, without judgment, as a loving observer, to what your child is saying. I encourage you to learn to close your mouth, and open instead your mind, eyes, ears and hearts. Then you can listen. You can’t listen and talk at the same time. So, first, close your mouth, and then listen with full attention to your child, or anyone you truly love. For any loving relationship to be a safe haven in which to grow these core conditions must exist: respect, genuineness, acceptance and empathy (Carl Rogers, On Becoming a Person).
Thus far we have focused on what creates a family life of security and well-being. Now let’s turn to attaining balance within oneself. Attaining balance within one self means recognizing, valuing and living out of your intellectual, emotional, physical, spiritual (which includes ethics and morals) and social self. This assumes more than just intellectual understanding that you have these five parts, but instead you recognize each aspect as an interdependent component of you on a daily basis. When you faction off who you are and either ignore, don’t value, or don’t “exercise” all five domains, it is hard for you to function with vigor and stamina over time. If I could put flashing neon lights on this page to highlight the significance and implications for us to accept that our five domains operate as one, believe me I would. Integrating this truth is life changing. When the five domains work together—each one with the other—they provide a perfect “GPS” system within us. Following are some practical ideas for creating and maintaining a loving, balanced relationship with children, based on the questions and issues raised by parents in the online discussion.
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