P. A. R. E. N. T.

What is a parent’s role in a child’s life?

There is a lot that can be said, but I came across this brief version I had jotted down years ago and thought I would share.

Parenting is hard, and we are all raising our children differently. These pointers are just some things I learnt over the years, and still learning as we apply them raising our children. I ask myself these questions on a daily basis on this journey that has no perfect manual. I am no perfect parent, nobody is, but we are all trying to do our best right?

1. Provider.

Once you get a child, you know your reason for living has changed. You are now conscious of being the provider to a little helpless human, till the time they can fend for themselves. How prepared are we for this?

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Keep in mind, humans are totally helpless when young, the child cannot provide shelter or feed or cloth itself, it is up to us the parents to do it.

The first seven years are said to be the most critical in setting the foundation for the kind of adult a child will grow to become. How are we fulfilling this provision role to ensure we set a firm and stable standard?

Parenting is not just paying the bills and ensuring the child is fed. Provision of basics is not enough.

2. Available.

Are we available when it comes to our children? Are we easily accessible to them or are they to be neither seen nor heard?

Do we look them in the eye when they speak to us, or are we buried in our phones, laptops and tv screens?

Are we approachable, or do they fear us?

Do we listen to them or just talk at them?

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Obviously, boundaries and respect are important, but we should not let them fear to come to us. We are all they have in a cruel world, if they cannot turn to us and trust us, who can they trust?

3. Responsible.

It is not enough to just provide as a parent, we need to be responsible for and to our children.

How quick are we to respond to their needs? (Including young babies).

I do not mean we should drop everything and centre our lives around them, but we do need to be responsive to their needs and teach them patience too.

When playing and they get frustrated, how do we teach them coping strategies? Do we demean them or do we help them understand that it is normal to get frustrated and anxious at times.

If it is about something they want; talking to them about the difference between wants and needs, will help in this.

I also learnt something the other day about looking for opportunities to say yes to their wants, as per our resources and dependent on what it is they need. “Yes, you can have that toy, but for your birthday, or special occasion”, instead of an outright “No!”

Children learn more by what they see, than what we tell them. Are we responsible human beings in our personal lives?

How can we expect our children to learn responsibility when they see us shirk ours in various ways; Escaping work early, lying to get out of family commitments, e.t.c. They see all this.

Let us lead by example.

4. Encourage.

We should strive to encourage our children at all times. Through their successes and failures.

It also doesn’t hurt to carefully steer them towards the vision you have for them, and encourage them accordingly.

This is tricky and it is easy to steer them towards our failed dreams; visions we had for ourselves and impose (read force) them to actualise them. Let us not do that.

Ask them what their vision is, and guide them accordingly, we know our children; their strengths, weaknesses, talents and that they like. That knowledge will inform us on how best to encourage them.

Also let’s not compare our children to others. It is so easy to do this, but let us not. Comparison is the thief of joy. Do not be the one making your child miserable because they are not as good as the Joneses’ seemingly perfect child, or not doing things as well as their sibling. Just don’t. It inflicts wounds that fester inside and damage their self confidence and self worth.

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5. Nurture.

Encouragement and nurturing go hand in hand. As parents we must try to be dream builders not dream crushers.

Is your child talented? Encourage and nurture that talent but! there is a big “but” here – keep in mind they are still children. And we should still let them be children.

Let us take care of them, be protective of what we expose them too.

This is easier said than done, as we might also end up being too protective. It is a delicate balance of allowing them to explore; but still remain within our sights.

6. Training.

As parents, we will drop the ball many times. Let us not be too hard on ourselves. We can strive to not give up, delegate our role or neglect it as the sole providers and nurturers of these precious children, no matter how difficult it will get at times.

We should keep offering direction, guidance, and discipline. We are their first teachers. Language, values, manners, how they talk and how they think, is up to how we train them.

Image Source : Etsy printable picture quotes.

Guiding them through each milestone is not an easy task, and many are the times we will ask ourselves what we signed up for and if we can hack it. We can and will hack this parenting thing but we have to be intentional in steering them the right way.

Leading by example, listening to them, correcting them, teaching them with love and patience the difference between right and wrong.

Training also includes basic body hygiene and how they conduct themselves in private and public. Toilet manners, table manners, making their beds, brushing their teeth, cleaning up after themselves, respecting authority and elders, proper communication. “Excuse me,” “pardon me,” “please,” “thank you,” “you are welcome,” ” sorry”, how to be safe, money sense, and many more.

We are the ones to teach them all this. Not the nanny, not the daycare provider, not the teacher, we the parents are the ones to do this.

There are age appropriate ways we can impart that knowledge to them as well as many teachable moments in our daily lives that we can use to do it.

Parenting is not an easy task, but with knowledge and guidance, and keeping a ‘village’ aka support system around us, that is respectful and shares our values, we will become more confident and feel less alone when navigating this parenting life.

What are some of your best parenting tips? Please share in the comment section.



Moving with the kids.

How to talk to the kids about moving.

We often take kids for granted when moving or making life decisions in general. We expect them to just fall into place and adapt like little dutiful followers. Bad idea.

I remember when we changed houses some years ago. On one of the first nights, my daughter asked when we would be going back to the old house.My son on the other hand, asked if anyone will ever come to ask us to leave. Keep in mind both houses were in the same compound!

That is when we realised our mistake; we did not involve them in the move. Sure enough, they had packed what they could and had even picked out the paint colours and designs for their rooms, but we did not TALK to them about it. It was a bad assumption on our part that they could figure out what was going on.

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When making the move to Kampala, we decided not to make the same mistake. Luckily we had been here before to visit some friends so they were a bit familiar with the place. Funnily enough, my son kept on saying he wants to live in Uganda then; little did we know his wish would come true a few months later.

So how then does one prepare kids for a move?

First, talk about it with them. Sit down as a family and tell them.

Listen to them too, and let them ask questions about the move. Obviously you have to use child/ age friendly language so that it is not intimidating to them. And try your best to answer them truthfully and in a friendly manner.

Anxiety is natural, but try to address their fears by talking to them about the positives of the move; focus on the good. But also be realistic about the fact that things may not fit into place perfectly at first. It will take time for all of you to adjust.

Remember it is natural for them to feel upset. They are leaving behind all that is familiar to them; their home, school, familiar places, family and friends. It is hard for them too. You can show them pictures of the new place too if it’s already organised so it can be familiar to them. Or even learn fun and interesting facts about the place you’re moving to.

It is very important to listen and observe their response to the news of the move. Some kids may not be willing to talk about it, but observe how they play with their toys and listen to them as they talk to each other. I have found this very important in understanding how my children think and their understanding of how the world works.

Let them pick out and pack their favorite toys, books or any keepsakes that they treasure; It is will make them feel a bit more comfortable and grounded as they have a feel of the familiar in a new place. 

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It is not easy for both you and them. I learnt and practiced A LOT of patience when we moved. But having a routine helped immensely. Not a rigid one but one where they know ‘what happens when’ so they do not get bored fast. 

We were also lucky to get a good school through recommendation of some friends whose kids are in the same school. Go for orientation with them, let them see the school, the classes, the playground, dining hall, pool, and meet their teachers if possible. Don’t wait till the day they have to report. 

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We had a few weeks before they had to report to the new school. Story books, games, toys, movies and tablets came in handy at that time. Plus a lot of outings and outdoor play as the weather here is lovely.  The best thing about kids is they are so creative and can play with anything they come across, and their imagination is still so fertile and vivid. Just make sure they are safe.

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Constant communication with family and friends who are no longer near is also very important. Organise a WhatsApp video call with an old neighbourhood or school friend and let the kids catch up with each other. Trust me, it is such a delight for them! 

Those months together with them have also worked out to our advantage during these quarantine times. It has been fun coming up with a routine  with them that we are all comfortable with. 

There are many resources online to help you tackle this subject. Kidshealth.org, parenting.com, psychologytoday.com , childdevelopmentinfo.com are just a few websites that provide a lot of helpful information on the same.