Here in the UK, it's the summer holidays. School is out and general, existential panic for parents is in.
As much as I'm kidding, there is some truth in that. If you've got little ones, then obviously looking after and nourishing your child is the most important priority. But 'what to do' with the kids this summer will most likely dominate the next six weeks like nothing else possibly could. Somehow, you're also supposed to shoehorn in looking after yourself because we all know that if you can find the time and space for the holy trinity (sleeping, eating and down-time) the stress can melt away much faster. If you’re burnt out, caring for your kids will have the joy strained out of it as fast as you can say, 'How's your summer going?' So we've got to get that self-care in there, folks. It's important.
Another responsibility you most likely care a lot about, is teaching our children to be confident in themselves and their abilities. This is a challenge if we're still forming confidence in ourselves, right? And how do we draw that delicate line lavishing praise to the point of raising an army of Verruca Salts or doling out the disapproval so that our kids are meeker than Charlie Bucket?
All we really want is for them to build a natural confidence in their abilities, with the appropriate amount of humility to moderate that. It's like a golden ticket to life! Of course, it's not as easy as it sounds. After all, helping to shape the personality of a brand new human in a half-decent direction is possibly one of the most complex responsibilities parents (who are also imperfect) could take on.
So, let's not even bother about chasing perfection. I always find that finding the right stimulus to make these outcomes more likely, is far preferable. In my fifteen years as a parent, I'm going to put myself out there and recommend three wonderful activities that can help your children build confidence and socialise well too:
Martial arts can make a profound difference to your child’s overall confidence. It may seem as though you’ll be placing them into some kind of 'Fight Club' scenario, but the truth is that martial arts instructors teaching children’s classes will first focus on safety, building discipline and confidence. Only the basic movements are taught and safe sparring is done with full safety equipment and depending on ability levels. Martial arts is also amazing exercise, and I have to say that when my kids practiced Taekwondo for a while, they made some fantastic friends too. Such a bonding experience!
Swim lessons can be an absolute winner. I'm a massive fan of swimming myself, knowing that it's the best possible exercise for building even muscle, improving flexibility and cardiovascular conditioning. The fact that it puts no strain on my ancient, arthritic joints is pretty good too. Not that our kids need to worry about that. However, swimming can serve as a healthy stimulus for them as well as having all kinds of other benefits like teaching control over their body, encouraging spatial awareness, nurturing a strong sense of balance and developing confidence in their own abilities. Not to mention the life-saving potential of being able to swim. My kids screamed like banshees the first few months of their swimming life but I was determined and slowly but surely, they came to love it and are both good, strong swimmers now. Result.
The creative arts can help inspire a child to express themselves and speaking as a highly creative person, I'd totally encourage letting your child be expressive - whatever the art form. If you look around online or on social media, you will probably find any number of community or after-school groups and classes. And remember that creative arts covers a whole multitude of forms. Your child might enjoy acting, gardening, dance, cooking, singing, dj-ing, sculpture, textiles - what really matters is helping them find a route to express themselves creatively and to feel proud of their work. You don't have to be an artist extraordinaire to make this happen. Apparently, Damien Hirst's mum used to tape another piece of paper to the edge of his drawings and say, 'keep going'. Sometimes the best ideas are the simplest!
I think those are three amazing ideas to help your child grow in confidence. Remember that the way you treat yourself gives them really powerful clues about how they should be looking after themselves so why not have a go at some of these yourself too? Surely thriving together is best and personalities blooming left, right and centre in a household cannot be a bad thing.
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