1. When you boil it all down, all the experts agreed that the single best thing that buffers children from negative forces is a loving, nurturing, warm relationship with parents.
University of B.C. researcher and documentary producer Maria LeRose said resiliency in children — the ability to rebound from hardships — comes from the loving looks and care they get from parents when they are young.
2. It’s crucial that parents make superhuman efforts to shield children from stress of all kinds, because pressure soaked up during childhood is proven to cause all kinds of problems in health and mental well-being later in life, the experts agree.
UBC researcher Dr. Kimberly Schonert-Reichl says stress and anxiety rates in children are surging, but a groundbreaking California study shows that you can actually train young brains to feel more optimistic, altruistic and grateful, simply by teaching them to “count their blessings.”
She points to a new program called MindUP, “which has gone viral” in Lower Mainland schools, with children keeping “gratitude journals,” doing good deeds for others just for the sake of giving and doing exercises to increase their mental well-being.
3. Dr. Clyde Hertzman of UBC’s HELP group says every parent should be providing “nurturant” learning and playing experiences, such as reading with your child, and the facilities needed are free in most neighbourhoods.
4. Carl Honore, a Canadian philosopher who has written parenting and lifestyle books about modern pitfalls in our hyper-fast, wired world, says “parents have to set hard limits on their children’s technology use. It’s not enough to set them free in the wild west of cyberspace.”
5. N. Rose Point, childcare expert and B.C. Institute of Technology elder advisor, said the basic needs for children are good nutrition and warm shelter, and discipline should never be associated with these crucial factors.
“A meal should never be used as a reward or punishment, and children need a safe and warm place to sleep,” she said. “Never send your child to their room as punishment. When they go to bed at night, they will consider it a punishment.”
6. Participating in organized sports is one of the best ways for children to build ability, maintain fitness and learn good social skills. But all those good things go down the drain if parents are in the stands pressuring their little pros. Experts say sports parents should sometimes just drop children off, instead of cheering at every game.
7. When it comes to disciplining children, strive to keep a cool head. Amedeo D’Angiulli, a professor at Carleton University who studied the effects of stress on brain development in B.C. youth, says: “Try not to take important actions that affect your child emotionally when you are tired, stressed-out, angry or when you feel ‘parental guilt.’ Take a pause or sleep on it, if it can wait at all.”
8. Parents in B.C. are working harder and longer than most in Canada in order to meet high living costs. That’s why it’s important to identify a parenting support network of family and friends and tap into the community aid that is available, so that you don’t feel like the responsibility rests completely on your own shoulders.
9. Don’t aim for perfection in parenting. Recognize the uniqueness of your child, enjoy them for who they are and learn to trust your own parenting instincts.
10. Being a kid shouldn’t be about beating the competition. And being a parent shouldn’t be about producing a winner by enrolling them in a busy regimen of “enhancement” activities. Let your children play, stumble and find their own way, at least some of the time.