Helping Kids Make Healthy Choices

September 23, 2015

Last year, Oak Hill had the honor of hosting the accomplished author and speaker, Catherine Steiner–Adair.  One of her missions was to inform Sarah Mathiesen, LMFT, OHS Guidance Counselorthe faculty and staff, as well as parents, of the importance of social and emotional learning (or “SEL” for short).  As a faculty member and parent, I listened closely to what she shared regarding the impact of technology on our modern culture and on our children.  Given the potential negative impact technology can have on our children and families, what can we then do to cultivate health in our children?  How can we, as parents and educators encourage our children to make healthy choices, no matter what the child’s age?  Here are three ideas on where to start:

  1. Try to find the balance.  As a parent, we want to instill creativity, freedom, openness and flexibility.  We certainly don’t want to come across as “helicopter parents.”  However, it can be challenging to find the balance as a parent between enough direction and freedom.   It is essential that we continue to strive for this balance, keeping in mind the child’s developmental stage as well as other important factors including stressors in life and family dynamics such as co-parenting.

  2. Help your child consider the options, without answering or choosing for them.  When your child is weighing a decision, consider helping your child think through the different options and possible outcomes.  This “thinking out loud” process can be helpful for children to learn to think through their decisions, as well as consider the options that can be possible.  It can ultimately be helpful for your child to make a decision on his or her own, even if you think the decision may not be the “right one” (only when safe).  That way, you can also discuss outcomes including other possibilities that could have been more effective.  This process can also bring you closer to your child as you become more attuned to their needs.

  3. Finally, finding time to converse with your child about life openly.  These opportunities are likely more meaningful than you realize.  Often times, bedtime or car rides are a great chance to chat about life in a natural way, which allows your child the opportunity to talk about his or her needs. If emotions run high during a conversation (child or adult), it is a good idea to take a break, calm down and then regroup together.  This helps to form a platform of safety and security, which leads to increased communication, sharing feelings and the ability to discuss options and solutions together in a healthy and constructive way.  

Each strategy points to a child-centered solution.  It is in the discussions with your children that they can continue to help teach us how to be the best parent we can be, if we are willing.  And never be afraid to ask for guidance, advice or help if things seem difficult.  Parenting is a journey, and we are meant to walk it together in community.

 

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