How do you keep your children close to you from babyhood to adulthood? It is possible, you just need the right approach and philosophy…………………Every Day

How do you know if you have got it right with your children? How do you judge if you are a successful parent as you watch your child grow up? What mistakes and pitfalls can you avoid and what ones are inevitable? These questions and many more are always in the mind of you as a parent. What you do know is that you want to be the best parent possible to your child.

So where do you start? Right at the beginning, as soon as your child is able to communicate with you. This is the door through which you must walk with your child and never let it close on you. Open communication between you as your child grows up, will allow you to overcome virtually every problem that presents itself to you. In fact even before issues become problems.

As a parent, never have any subject which cannot be discussed openly by you and your child, however uncomfortable it is for you. Strategies like always having a special time of the day when you talk about what has gone on, for both you and your child, will really work. This could be at supper time, or when you child is in bed, or those tender moments just before going to bed. You will find that this lays the foundation for a very strong relationship as your child grows up, and will make your bond together unshakeable.

At these special times, you also need to be telling your child your daily challenges as he needs to be able to relate and understand your world. Of course you need to tailor what you say depending on his age. You say your bit and encourage him to say whatever he wants to. You will be amazed at what you learn. The conversations will change as your child grows older, but will always be open and frank. Those key links you build together will always work whether your child is 2 or 22.

It is really worth making the effort on this, and you and your child will have created a bond which will help you both, and enhance your relationship together for the rest of your lives.

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What do you do when honesty might hurt your child? An eternal parental dilemma but it all depends on his age.

As a father and a parent, you will never want to hurt your child, but sometimes if you tell them things as they really are, they will get upset and the effects may even last for sometime. Occasionally a ‘white lie’ is acceptable if it is done to protect your child from something, particularly if they are not yet at an age when they can understand the full consequences of it. However, you should always try to be honest with your children and never lie to them on serious issues.

Sometimes it is very difficult to stick to this guideline, but remember that your children deserve you to treat them correctly. It doesn’t really matter what the subject matter is of your ‘white lie’, but your judgement of the situation will determine if it is the correct course of action. If your child is a toddler or under five and his grand mother passes away, you might tell him that ‘nanna has gone to a special place with the angels’.

If however he has been at primary school for a few years he will be starting to learn about the human life cycle and that we are born and we eventually die. You may make a judgement call in this instance and tell him the truth but couch it in more direct gentle terms like ‘nanna passed away peacefully in her sleep and has gone to heaven’. So how you communicate with your child will very definitely be relative to your child’s age and his ability to comprehend life events like this.

If however you do lie to him even on a subject as serious as this and he finds out, it will send the message that this is an acceptable form of behaviour. Remember, at all times your child will look up to you and copy your behaviour, so he will need you to handle a situation like this in the correct way. He will remember how you do this for many years to come.

How can you stay close to your Teenager as your relationship changes? It is a real challenge.

When your child becomes a teenager, the dynamics of your relationship changes dramatically, so you need to evolve and become a different kind of role model. He will be mixing with a wide variety of individuals independently of you and it is important that you remain consistent in how you behave towards him. ‘Work hard … play hard’, is a very important philosophy you need to get through to your teenager, and to do this, you must lead by example.

As he will be trying new things during these years and following your example (where it suits him of course) try to avoid doing anything to excess yourself. While he needs to understand that he can enjoy himself, this must be linked to working hard, particularly at school. Therefore, he needs to see the example of ‘normal acceptable behaviour’ coming from his father.

It is vitally important that your child feels he can still communicate with you openly while he is a teenager. So this will be one of your biggest challenges during the next few years. So keeping all lines of communication open between you both is vital, and will influence strongly how your relationship with him develops. However difficult and awkward the subject is, you can never have a ‘bad conversation’ with your child, only a good one, even if it doesn’t feel like it at the time. With all the challenges facing him during this period of his life, this is where you will really benefit from the investment in time and effort you made with him during his earlier years.

It is during that period where you have laid the foundations, to allow you to stay connected during the extremely challenging times ahead of you. Your child is still very vulnerable when he is a teenager, but he neither believes nor realises this, and he will get sick of hearing you telling him this. He will be rebellious and very difficult to manage at times, so, your role really is to guide him through this stage of his life. Don’t worry, he will come out the other side, every child does, and hopefully with a sense of independence and respect for you, his mother, as well as other people. He will need this sense of value and perspective when he becomes an adult.

Have fun with your baby right from the start. Even the mundane things can be a huge enjoyment for you both…..

Don’t be afraid to change your baby’s nappies right from the very first time she arrives home. Make it a fun time as well, by singing little songs, or tickling your baby’s feet or tummy while you do it. Subconscious bonding occurs while you do this, as she smiles at you, and you smile back at her. Each time you do this, you are reinforcing the link and love between you. Such a mundane yet intimate task as changing a nappy, lays the seeds for a very strong and involved relationship between you and your child as she grows up.

Whenever possible, try to be present for every bath time. Get used to holding your baby in the water, while you wash her. This will give you the confidence to handle her in a potentially dangerous situation, and create trust between you and your baby. It will be another reinforcement for your growing bond together as well.

Make sure you make bath time fun. This is a part of the day that you and your baby can really enjoy. Once the job of being washed is out the way, serious play time can begin, even when your baby is very small. Always keep little floating ducks or balls in the bathroom that she can push around the bath. When she is so small, you should always hold her very firmly with one hand.

Let her splash you while you pretend to be shocked. Your baby will love the staged expressions on your face as you get wet.

To avoid mishaps with your baby, always check first with your partner when you get home. If you don’t, who knows what can happen…………..but always keep it in perspective.

In my excitement to see my children after a day at work, I almost always forgot to ask whether they had been winded after their evening feed. In my enthusiasm for a cuddle it caused many accidents, many of which were totally unexpected.

One Friday evening I came home after a day at work and picked up our daughter. As usual, I didn’t ask my wife any questions, put her on my shoulder, where she promptly vomited all down the back of my jacket. It was Friday, so I was pretty relaxed and just changed it. My wife and I were going to neighbours for drinks, the babysitter had arrived and with a new jacket on, off we went.

After 45 minutes of hugs and hellos we were chatting to a group of friends when suddenly one said, “Mark, what the heck’s that on your trousers?” You guessed it, my little princess had puked right down my trouser legs too and I hadn’t noticed. At that moment everyone worked out what the unusual smell had been (I think the parents of babies become immune to the scent of milky vomit) and a bit of ribbing and exaggerated gagging ensued for the rest of the evening.

It’s a fact, babies will be sick on you. Of course, this may mean you have to take your stuff to the dry cleaners, but who cares. Your child didn’t do it on purpose, even if she is smiling at you and has that unspoken look on her face ‘caught you out there dad didn’t I?’ She certainly didn’t have any ulterior motives for doing it, so don’t blow it out of perspective.

It’s not worth getting upset or annoyed when this happens. It will happen to you many times, but in the end, it is always worthwhile when you see your child’s little smile after she has got rid of the wind in her tummy.

It is possible to amuse your Toddlers whilst stuck in the car and avoid stress for all the family. Try these games and distractions and enjoy the ride.

Playing games in the car will normally stop your child getting bored and agitated. A good one that you can play with him, is ‘the snooker game’. You ask him to spot the colours of cars in the order of the balls played in a game of snooker. You start with white, then a red, then yellow, and all the way up to black. Have you ever noticed how few yellow, brown or pink cars there are on the roads? In fact there are hardly any pink ones at all. You can keep this game going for as long as you need to. It will keep your child amused for a long while, as well as distracting you.

Another game you can play is looking for the type or make of car. For example a Volkswagen Beetle, or an Aston Martin DB9. If you want the game to last a little longer for your child, then choose a rare type of car. If you want your child to find it quickly, choose a more popular model. There are many variations on this theme that you can use depending on how creative you want to be. For example, it could be marques of lorries, buses, vans or even caravans and trailers.

If you prefer to play more educational games with your child, you can play ‘Capital cities of the world’. This game is both interesting and educational for you and your child and keeps him focussed on fun learning instead of getting frustrated because he is bored in the car. Start with very easy ones such as the Capital city of England or Scotland. You call out the country and your child has to guess its Capital city. Once he gets used to some of the answers, you can progress to other more difficult ones from European or South American countries. You will be amazed just how much knowledge your child will pick up and retain.

As you know, the car can be a very challenging environment with your small child. Occasionally if the games don’t work, you can start singing songs together. This will work well for you and can be used as a means of passing time between two points on the road. If it is fifteen minutes until your exit, you can devise a game for all of you to sing songs, one after the other and you can all give marks out of ten. For example, between two junctions on a Motorway, suggest to everyone in the car to sing an agreed song or nursery rhyme, until the second junction is reached. There must be no exceptions, and everyone must join in. Let your child choose the song as soon as the one you have chosen is finished.

You will see that time passes very quickly like this and it is very good for strengthening bonds between you and your child. It also reinforces your child’s sense of doing fun things with you. Remember you want to have really good fun with your child, and that is an important part of your relationship together! For example, while going under the Dartford Tunnel, you and your child could sing “10 little ducks went swimming one day”. The goal would be to finish the song exactly at the moment when you leave the tunnel. Your child will be enthralled.

You can also invent stories to tell to your child in the car. He will be captivated. For example, you could invent a story about ‘The Wicked Witch of Gott’ (this is a totally made up name). She is an old witch who sits at her window watching the children go to school. If somebody pulls a face at her, she will cast a spell and that face would become permanent on the child who pulled it. You can only get your normal face back if you go up to the Witch’s house and apologise to the Witch in person (nobody wanted to do that). The only other way to get your normal face back is if the wind changes direction. You can adapt this story with different characters and draw it out or shorten it depending on the length of time you are in the car. This will be subconsciously teaching your child to be polite and not to pull faces at people, also to respect others who are different.

Your child will love stories which are told by you, so you can be very creative with them. For example, you could invent one about a family of dinosaurs and its prehistoric adventures, with each dinosaur representing one member of your family. You can let your Toddler choose who is what dinosaur, then you can recount a story which you can make up as you go along. If you let your child choose who you are, you might find that you always end up being the Brontosaurus! I wonder why……

If your Toddler is tired, he will sleep through anything, so you don’t need to worry.

Bedtime can be a stressful time for you, but you don’t really need to worry, as once you have got your Toddler into bed, if he is tired, he will go to sleep. You don’t need to close his door either. Many children can be afraid of the dark for no reason at all. Therefore, it will be reassuring for him if he wakes up in the middle of the night and doesn’t feel cut off from the rest of the family. Pitch blackness can be very intimidating and scary for a young child.

In any case, most young children do not need complete darkness or silence to sleep. When they are tired, they will sleep anywhere, even in bright sunlight in a noisy store or park. How many times have you seen a small child fast asleep in his parent’s arms or a pram, in the middle of the day? Leaving his door open can also be a good discipline for later on in life. It may well help keep your child with an ‘open’ attitude to you and others as he grows older. It should help avoid him trying to always close himself off in his bedroom when he is a teenager and distancing himself or becoming aloof from the rest of the family. It’s amazing how something as simple and unscientific as this, can help promote good habits, later on in life. And these habits die very hard in later years.

Children don’t need silence to sleep. Young children sleep if they are tired, and if they are not, then they won’t go to sleep. It can be reassuring for your Toddler to hear normal family background noise when he goes to sleep, so he does not feel cut off at bed time. It also means that your family can continue its normal household (sometimes noisy) routines in the evening. It is very important for your child’s development that he is raised in as normal household environment as possible. It goes without saying that normality is relative and based on your particular religion and culture. You will also feel less stressed as you will not be trying to keep other children quiet or keeping the general level of noise down.

A little night light in the background, particularly when your child is very young, will also help prevent him becoming afraid of the dark. Because he has this light on, as he grows older, darkness should never become an issue for him.

Make sure you kiss your child goodnight or he will remind you, irrespective of what you are doing. It could be very costly!

When you tuck your Toddler in at night, always kiss him ‘good night’, and when you go and greet him the next day, kiss him ‘good morning’ as well. If you do this from birth, it will become second nature to you both. It is yet another little brick in the castle of emotional ties that you are building up with your child, which will stay with both of you for the rest of your lives. Even if your child is asleep when you do this, subconsciously he will know and sense you have done it. It will also allow you both to close off the old day, and start an exciting new one together, the next morning.

This habit will last all the way through to adulthood, and if you happen to forget one night, you can be sure your child will remind you. I once had an embarrassing episode with my daughter, while I was taking an evening phone call from a potential new employer. I had answered the call before I had kissed her goodnight. She was 3 years old at the time.

I was downstairs trying to sell myself for this particular new job that I wanted and she was standing at the gate to her bedroom shouting “kiss me goodnight Daddy”. I could hear her very clearly, but was trying to remain focussed on the call. Eventually having been distracted for about 15 minutes, the call was about to end and the person interviewing me said “next time you should say goodnight to your child before you do a phone call like this”. I was shocked as I thought she couldn’t hear my Toddler. I then stumbled out some lame excuse, about why I hadn’t said goodnight to my daughter yet, before saying goodbye to my interviewer. I didn’t get the job by the way, so be warned…..

This and many more anecdotes and tips are in my Book Help I’m a Father, by Mark Hearn, which is available through Amazon

How do you keep young children amused on long car journeys?

How often have you been on your way somewhere and been delayed by traffic, or it has taken much longer than you thought to get there? Or even just been on a long car journey and your children have got bored and started playing up? This is a regular occurrence for all parents with young children and can be the most irritating and frustrating time as you are all cooped up inside the car. So, the answer is distraction and playing games with your children.

There are two types of games you can play in the car, educational and plain simply amusing. If you sometimes struggle for ideas, particularly if you are frustrated as your children are playing up, and still having to concentrate on the road, why don’t you write down a list of games that can be played when the pressure starts to build. This can be kept in the car at all times, and then referred to when needed. It will be easier than trying to think of potential games to play when you are stressed out.

Some ideas of games are:

The ‘snooker game’. Ask you children to spot coloured cars in the order that the coloured balls are played in a game of snooker. So white is first, then red, then yellow etc. If you want it to last longer, then you can put another white in front of each colour.

Spotting makes of cars, or trucks, or vans. This is easy as you can pick popular ones, or if you want the game to last longer, you can pick rarer models.

Reciting the ‘Times tables’. Depending on the age of your children you can give them a time limit for reciting them properly and a little reward when you reach your destination if they get them all right.

‘Capital Cities of the world’. Depending on your child’s age, you can ask them the Capital city of England or Scotland, and progress to more difficult countries as they get a bit older and learn more. It is amazing how quickly they will retain this information.

Sing songs which start between two defined points on the road. It starts when you pass a certain landmark and must finish exactly as you pass the next. You will be surprised how precise your child can be. You can sing nursery rhymes, or popular songs, but let your child select the song.

Everyone, except the driver, writes a sentence on a piece of paper, then folds it so no-one else can see what is written apart from the last word, then the next person writes their own sentence. After everyone has had two turns, someone in the car reads out what has been written. Everyone will laugh for sure with what results.

You will also have your own ideas for games, and so your this list can be as long as you like, but do keep it in your car. It will definitely help you manage and keep your cool when you find yourself under pressure with your children in traffic.

 

 

Am I a Boring Dad to my Children? How do I know if I am, and how do I stop it?

Do your children find you boring? If so, and you will know whether they do, you have to ask yourself why! There is always a risk that parents lose the ability to remain relevant to their children as they are growing up. This becomes particularly acute when your child becomes a teenager. So, the question is, how do you avoid this? Can you avoid it, or is it inevitable?

The answer is yes of course you can avoid this! It just takes effort and commitment, and a real desire on your part. The key to remaining relevant and avoiding becoming boring is to stay interested in what your children do, and become tolerant of their developing tastes.

This isn’t always easy, as their tastes in clothes, music, films and friends can be so different from yours. But you have to try, because if they perceive you as being boring and uninterested in what they do, they will stop communicating with you. The moment they do this, you will become irrelevant to their lives and just a peripheral figure floating around the edge of their existence!

This is to be avoided at all costs, as your children need you perhaps more than at any time in their lives when they become teenagers, as their points of reference are changing so quickly. You become the constant, but you have to adapt with them. But it is possible, so never give up trying …..