Grand Families LogoCookie Oakley, LCSW

            An extremely important message to all Grand Families who are raising “Grand Children.”  As you have realized parenting today’s children is much different than when you were parents previously.  Please review my previous blog about healthy boundaries with the biological parents of your “Grand Children.”  The most important strategy for Grand Family parents is to realize you have the responsibility to shape and improve the life of the child you are parenting—especially to help them learn healthy self-confidence in order to make good life choices and decisions to avoid the destructive life-style of their biological parents.  The remainder of this blog is about encouraging and teaching healthy self-confidence in your “Grand Children.”

Healthy self-confidence is extremely important because this encourages children/adolescents to be themselves, be able to interact socially and academically, and learn to tell parents how they feel and listen to their teachings.  Children and adolescents who have healthy self-confidence are less fearful of new challenges and willing to learn new academics, new life skills, new social skills, and new physical activities.  Learning new skills and achieving accomplishments continues the building process of their self-confidence.

It is parents’ responsibility to nurture and encourage, not push their children.  In other words, help the child to learn about a new challenge or activity before they actually get involved.  For instance, a four-year-old that has not played soccer but feels afraid to try to play with a team.  A parent’s responsibility is to interact with child by playing backyard soccer — just kicking the ball around to help them learn the basic concept and feel comfortable with new sport, and encouraging the child to learn from coach as they have learned from preschool teacher.  Yelling to a child is unsuccessful because they will become fearful, anxious, feel unloved or valued; and most obvious is their listening and cognitive abilities are impaired.

A school teacher who is patient and teaches in a calm but stern manner will help a child learn easier and more effective becoming more self-confident with every accomplishment.  Praise and acknowledgement is crucial when a child accomplishes a new task, whatever it is.  Parents and teachers should always tell them they did a good job and praise the new accomplishment.  It is important to remember children are not alike – each child will learn at different pace and in a different style.  All humans are unique –think and learn differently.  This approach and thought process should be consistent all through child, adolescent, and young adult stages.

An adolescent who starts to become aware of their personal appearance and the importance of social acceptance can have a set-back with self-confidence.  This stage in life is more challenging and fearful for many adolescents.  They can develop social anxiety when they realize that peers are looking at them and making opinions.  Parents must help and coach an adolescent through this stage–especially the same gender parent– encouraging and teaching self-awareness is crucial such as teaching adolescent that being themselves is more important than trying to dress or act like other kids.  This phase will play out the family values and self-confidence already learned.  Another words, if the adolescent has learned realistic and good personal values such as respect for others, their behavior will show these characteristics.  This is the stage when personal character will begin to be more obvious and adolescents will feel good about their choices.

Character building is taking place all through a child’s life.  Parents are teaching them right from wrong, societal norms, social appropriateness, and “treat others how you want to be treated.”  Character building skills are learning that there are others in our world, respectful and mindful of their feelings, understanding that all people are different, and will act and perform differently.  These dynamics are especially important in family environment.

Parents must teach their children that criticism of others is inappropriate; just that other people learn and act differently.  No one person is perfect, therefore criticism is hurtful to others and not appropriate.  If a child is hurt emotionally or physically by another child, the child should express how they feel and walk away.  Healthy self-confidence will help a child to cope with criticism and bullying. A parent should teach the child or adolescent the intelligent way to handle a difficult situation.  A child/adolescent must feel they can express or explain their feelings to parents without punishment. This relationship develops early in a child’s life so they must be encouraged and helped to learn how to express themselves to parents without fear or judgment. Their life is a constant learning process, therefore many mistakes will occur.  Parents must teach that mistakes are a learning process, not failure.

Eye Contact and Hugs – This behavior must be initiated by the parents.  If this behavior is used by parents in infancy/toddler years, the child will learn this behavior and be comfortable.  Eye contact and hugs from the parent sends a message to the child that they are loved and valued, and it will establish trust and bonding.  The eyes are the window to the soul of each human being.  Communicating through sincere and loving eye contact will send the unspoken message to a child and help establish healthy self-confidence.  They will be learning to trust themselves and make decisions more confidently.  Teaching and helping children to learn healthy self-confidence is as important as providing basic needs.  Without healthy self-confidence, a child/adolescent or teenager are constantly confused about simple decisions, can fail in academics, social interaction, and basic life skills that are crucial for healthy adult life.