Having a baby, a child and a home is a real gift in life. It is to be treasured and guarded. One day your little one will outgrow your home and will become an independent person but they will take three things with them when they leave home:
- A sense of how they were loved and are valued as a person
- Your family values
- A sense of belonging to something bigger than themselves
These three things form the safe space from which they weather life’s storms. More than anything these are the three anchor points you want to give your child.
Simple practices and rituals will seal your family into the heart of your child. Here are some ways you can consciously give your love/ family a memory and space in the heart of your child.
Comfort food – Make your child’s favourite meal when they have a hard day, start playgroup or come back from camp. Give each child in your home their own ‘special meal’ – James loves lasagna, Alex loves chicken parmesan and Em loves spaghetti bolognaise and they know when I make their favourite I am thinking of them.
Weekly dinner – from the youngest age (12 months old), set aside one night as ‘family dinner’. Let your little one eat with Dad and the family at the family table. Create a ritual saying: “So James, how was your day.” It will warm your heart when one day your toddler asks Dad: “ So Dad, how was your day.” When they are older keep family dinner as a hallowed daily ritual, its value is more than you would believe
Birthday present time – Whatever it is, do everybody’s birthday morning the same way – we open presents in mom and dad’s bed – all 5 squeezing in. I know someone who has a birthday cake for breakfast. Others climb into the birthday boy/ girls’ bed with tea. Whatever it is, mark the significance of the day.
Christmas – Family festivals and religious holidays must have meaning for your children. Mark them with a routine that is unwavering – stockings on the bed or a dinner with candlelight – whatever it is let them know clearly their family values and religious beliefs.
Treasure chest – A lovely idea is to create a little chest of symbols – reminders of times and memories. Then every now and again unpack the box and talk about what happened when you found this little treasure – a shell picked up on a walk on a quiet beach on holiday or a birthday card from their granny. Use symbols to trigger memories.
Our song – Give your child a song – “Indigo Girl” by Watershed is our middle child’s song and we play it to her to make her feel special: “You’re my little Indigo girl…”
Mental photos – Sometimes in your parenting journey you will feel an overwhelming emotion – note those moments; stop and take a mental photo and then envisage it often to evoke that emotion. One of mine is watching Alex take her first steps – I captured it in ‘neuro-image’ – etched in my memory bank, I treasure those mental photos and call them up often.