One of the most important parts of being a conscious parent is teaching your children core values such as honesty, kindness and justice. That’s not an easy job, especially when they start going to school and become aware of other children behaviour or certain situations challenge them to question those values. In the community I live in there are families from all over the world with different parenting methods as well, so I am curious to find out how parents can communicate better and help their children preserve their core values from outside influence.
Dr. Brandi Eijsermans: Once your child starts making social comparisons, communication can get more difficult for parents. Parents need to start explaining to their kids why they have to do this or that. For example: “There’s a reason why Mom and Dad have these values. We have built them over time and we too have experienced and faced lots of people doing things in lots of different ways.”
On one side, parents want to help kids learn enough about their values. But we also want them to be open to challenging those value as they grow older. In the international community we live in, we have major cultural influences; some very different parenting strategies and world values.
As parents in this environment, we need to be more transparent. Rather than just saying, for example, “NO, we are not doing this; you are not getting a phone yet,” a better way of handling the situation might be to say: “Your friend might have a phone and that might be necessary for them. But we want you to develop a healthy understanding of who you are in the real world before you start to have a digital life”.
There is no judgement there. What is important is to communicate your decision with your kids: “My decisions and boundaries for you do not mean coming up with limits to torment you. They are based on something I truly believe in.” Oftentimes we don’t really take the time as parents to reflect on that.
Sometimes these values can also differ between parents. The point is that it makes you think:What are the important things to me?
For example: I value my friendships. When you start thinking of technology or scheduling and the use of your time, then if the quality of your friendships matters to you, keep that in mind. In our family, we put people over belongings.
The ability to articulate these values openly, visually, and explicitly comes with time. It is not about one meeting one day, but slowly helping our kids understand: Why does Mum do all that? Why is it that we always have the same conversations about technology? It is actually not about technology; it is about a deeper underlying system of values. So, eventually, your kids will start to understand you and your family’s priorities.
You will have to change the language you use according to your kids’ age and their developmental stage, but you can help them gain an idea that Mom and Dad have a framework of how to prioritise and navigate things in this very busy world; how to know what is really important.
Communicating our core values as a family with our kids helps all of us guide our behaviours, priorities, and what we do with our time and energy.
This is not a power game; parents need to communicate why they do what they do. Kids don’t have to like it; they can be angry at Mom and Dad for the decisions they make and that’s okay. But
parents have the responsibility of deciding what limits and boundaries they set, and it’s helpful for kids to know that there is reasoning behind it!
Why? Because they start to trust that reasoning with time, if you make it clear. Then you don’t have so many power struggles, because your kids will kind of understand your response and your thought process behind it. It’s like: I am pretty sure Mom won’t go for this, but I am still gonna ask.
Dr. Eijsermans is a Psychologist FSP, American trained licensed Clinical Psychologist with over 10 years experience spanning the globe working with and researching individuals and families who live outside their country of origin and their dynamic identities. In 2015, she founded Optimal Wellness Global offering therapy with science-based practices of well-being, to promote thriving skills, resilience, happiness, compassion and connection for a meaningful life to help pan-internationals in their global lifestyle. For more information on Brandi visit www.optimalwellnessglobal.com
As an agent for change, she has collaborated to develop a local initiative to promote collaboration between local and international mental health providers to increase access and equal affordability to culturally-competent and culturally-sensitive care, foster collaboration and integration of foreign practitioners with Swiss practitioners to strengthen the offering and collective knowledge of the region, and to challenge stigma with increased visibility and normalization of public exposure to mental health topics, narratives and public education. For more details or to search the Mental Health Initiative database visit www.mentalhealthinitiative.ch