1. Openness, honesty and vulnerability
Start by creating an open, honest relationship with your children and they will keep coming back to you over their lifetime to talk through their challenges. I know this, because mine do and they are both young adults. This is the foundation stone.
Did you know that we learn so much by watching and imitating? Check your actions first, are you tolerating a toxic relationship in your life? Your children are watching you. If you say one thing and do another, it is a sure way for your child not to listen to you. They will do what you do, not what you say.
3. Sharing rather than telling
My children are adults, they still ring me and we have heart to hearts about any topic in life. Why? I learnt to share with my kids, not tell them what to do. I learnt how to share both my struggles and how I overcame them. I learnt how to guide them to overcome their challenges themselves.
Sit down along side your children and share from the heart, your personal stories of how you have chosen your friends, the ones that have stayed with you for a long time, the ones that accept you for who you are and the ones who do not tell you what to do with your life. Share a story with your children about someone in your life who demeaned you, bullied you or was toxic. Share how you tolerated it for a while until you realized how much it was hurting you and you found out that it was OK to walk away. Share how you gained the courage to say, “No. I am important. I do not want to be friends with that person.”
4. Model self-love
We love our children, but are we teaching them self-care and self-love? We are more likely to teach our children to be “nice” to other people, don’t be rude etc. to others, rather than to be nice to ourselves. We, and our children, are often confused about the differences between being selfish, selfless and the idea of self-care.
Often we tolerate toxic relationships because we have been taught to care for others and not ourselves. If your children understand that their needs are important, they will learn to say, “No, this does not make me feel good, I do not want to be friends with that person and I know that it is OK to walk away.” Share with them, that it is Ok not to be friends. Many kids think that it is not Ok, NOT to be friends. We need to teach them to be “nice” to themselves. Being nice, kind and loving to ourselves, means not being friends with people who bully, demean, put down and intimidate.
5. No rescuing needed
Share with your child that not everyone is “nice.” There are people in the world who are unkind and who for whatever reason are unkind and hurtful to other people. It is not your child’s job to “try” to rescue these people. They have to learn their own lessons in life and if more people created loving boundaries for themselves, people with toxic behavior might one day learn that people will not tolerate judgments, teasing and belittling.
6. How to create loving boundaries
Let your child know, it is Ok to say, “Stop doing “X” or Stop saying “X.” Let them know that they can just walk away, if they are unable to speak. Some children become paralyzed. Let your children practice, saying No, and walking away confidently with you as a game at home. Let them know it is OK to move away and towards the safety of kind, respectful friends, without saying anything.
As parents, you are laying a foundation stone for your children as they grow when you teach your children the difference between self-love, selfishness and being self-less.
Remember to practice self-love towards yourself. The greatest teacher is the one who models self-care. Your children are learning by osmosis, let them learn by what you do and how you do it just as much as by sharing with them.
The sharing times can create and be the most intimate, connected, loving times you have with your children. I enjoy the privilege of this heart to heart connection with my own adult children, now you can too.