Gifts Children Really Need and Want
by Lauren Bondy, MSW, Certified LifeLine Practitioner and Karen Jacobson, MA, LCPC, LMFT, Co-Founders of Parenting Perspectives
We all want our children to have "the best" of everything and to “fit in”— and these days, that might seem like making sure they have the best game system, the best cell phone, the best clothes. But sometimes in our relentless focus on the best things, we lose sight of what's really important—the gifts money can't buy. The following gifts will help children develop the best qualities: being respectful, responsible, resilient, creative and compassionate.
1) Gift of Your Time, Presence & Connection: In a world of cell phones, laptops and Blackberries, many parents find that even when they are spending time with their children, they are not emotionally present. Children need your undivided attention, so “tune in” to them, listen, and respond from your heart.
2) Gift of Feelings: Helping children express their feelings is healthy and allows them to get support and problem-solve. Loving children unconditionally means loving and accepting ALL of their feelings—even the difficult ones (from endless crying and full-blown tantrums to sadness or withdrawal). In media culture, kids are often shown that being sensitive is “uncool”. Help them realize that real heroes experience all feelings -- including the uncomfortable ones -- and are sensitive to the needs of others
3) Gift of Empathy: Empathy means letting your child know that you understand how they feel, even when you don’t like they way they are behaving. Teaching children about empathy is essential for preparing them to have healthy relationships. The violence kids see in the media counteracts empathy; the more violence they see, they less they think about how violence affects real people in real life.
4) Gift of Limits & Boundaries: Despite their protests, children need and want clear, consistent limits and rules in order to have safety and security. Setting limits on media time is critical in order to make sure they have time for eating nutritious meals, keeping up with schoolwork, engaging in physical activity, and getting enough sleep.
5) Gift of Boredom: Though many kids participate in after-school activities every day, children and teens also need unstructured down time so that they can think, feel, create, and soul-search. Set limits on media so that this down time doesn’t get overrun with electronics. Children who spend a lot of time “plugged in” become used to instant gratification, intense experiences, and being entertained rather than learning how to entertain themselves.
6) Gift of Struggle & Disappointment : While it is natural for parents to want to protect their children, it is important to allow children to struggle and feel disappointed so that they develop coping skills for life’s challenges. When parents hear “I’m the ONLY one without a TV in my room!” or “How come everyone else got a cell phone in 5th grade?”, they need to empathize with their children’s disappointment without giving in to their demands.
7) Gift of Self-Discovery : One of the greatest gifts in life is to know, appreciate and love oneself. Parents are in a powerful position to guide their children on this path. Teaching children how to have healthy creative media experiences like creating movies, making digital scrapbooks, or writing a blog can help them learn more about themselves.
>>See tips on how to choose media-related gifts
>>See ideas for non-media gifts
Parenting Perspectives provides high-quality education to parents and teachers to help nurture healthy children, so they can reach their full potential. Lauren Bondy and Karen Jacobson have presented their original, interactive workshops and multi-week course to thousands of parents, have appeared on ABC-7’s “Connect with Kids” and been Keynote speakers. They speak on a wide variety of topics including power struggles, self esteem, discipline, sibling rivalry, bullying, temperament, and school issues.