Meaningful Involvement with Positive Adults

Hi there and welcome to my blog. If this is your first time here, please go back and read my other blogs. I’ve been writing a series about raising resilient kids, inspired by information I’ve read in a book by Australian teacher, counsellor and author Maggie Dent. (I’m more than a little excited to be attending a conference led by Maggie here in Melbourne in May!)

According to Maggie Dent in her book Real Kids In an Unreal World, “meaningful involvement is an emotional and spiritual connection that can be demonstrated even from a distance.” She gives an example of an Aunt who lives a long way from where the child lives but keeps in contact via phone or Skype. The Aunt will know things like the Childs favourite colour, toy, food, books etc. If possible, this Aunt will be present for important occasions such as birthdays or Christmas. This is what meaningful involvement looks like to a child. A real and deep involvement is really important for wellbeing especially in later childhood and adolescence. The more adults in a Childs life with this level of involvement, the better.

“Our effectiveness as parents will be in direct proportion to the strength of the connection we have with our child.” - Pam Leo, “Connection Parenting” in Kindred (June-August 2008)

I’ve been sitting, reading and re-reading the quote and of course my mind goes way back to when my now adult kids were growing up. I have the gift of hindsight ;), and so I say to you, I now know why it must have been so frustrating for our parents and grandparents to be watching us raise our families and not “be able” to give advice or share knowledge. I’m not sure what you readers were/ are like when it comes to raising your children, but I remember thinking the “oldies” were a bit old fashioned and surely couldn’t teach me anything worthwhile (!!). I mean, there’s new books FULL of modern information about raising children. Pretty arrogant, right? Where was my “village” awareness???

As I look back I also remember how very loving and positive my children’s grandparents were with my kids. Their love and kindness was consistent, reliable and unconditional. Regardless of what was going on in their lives, the grand folks would always be “present” when my kids were around. They were number one priority. I know in my heart that this unconditional love and attention helped my children grow into the loving adults they are today.

It’s so very important for kids to know that they have the undivided attention of the adult they are spending time with. No phone, no TV, just pure one on one time. These actions demonstrate very clearly to a child that he/ she is worthwhile and helps them to build self-esteem and healthy development on all levels.

I understand first hand how difficult it is as a parent to give someone undivided attention in this crazy, busy world. So I refer again to those wise words……..’IT TAKES A VILLAGE TO RAISE A CHILD”.

The other adults in your children’s lives who have meaningful involvement are able to support the kids in building life skills, a job which may require more time and attention than is possible for a parent to give. These other adults can also provide what could be vital respite if there are children with special needs. Again, the more, the merrier!

Having a number of people who have a bond of affection, that they can trust and rely on as they grow will help children to form healthy connections in their lives. It will also help greatly to lessen the instance of separation anxiety.

There are also three phrases I want to bring to your attention today;

  • learned helplessness - “A condition called learned helplessness does exist. This occurs when a child, often with special needs, receives special care and assistance. After a time they become dependant and anticipate help, learn to become helpless. This can happen with over-protective parenting as well” - K. Reivich & A. Shatte, The Resilience Factor (2002)

  • suppression - Imagine your child at the checkout demanding something , and you respond with “No, you don’t deserve it, you’ve been really naughty today.”

  • indulgence - Imagine that same child at the checkout and you respond with “ Here, just have it and shut up!”

Our words are so very powerful and have a long lasting impact on our children. Please avoid avoid the above.

“If a child is ignored or treated with critical words, he/ she is likely to create core beliefs of being ‘useless’, ‘unlovable’ or ‘not enough’. Children will develop positive thought patterns and core beliefs if the adults around them use optimistic language and avoid shaming and blame-based language.”

So, how do we create meaningful involvement….

  • See every child as a gift or a miracle (because they are)

  • Be fully present with your child (no matter the age)

  • Ensure your child feels that he/ she belongs

  • Surround your children with caring, responsive adults who have a genuine affection for them.

  • Don’t forget “The Village”

Perhaps also consider the following (if you haven’t already) ;

  • Building cubbies (inside or out)

  • Large boxes for playing in or with

  • Making capes (who doesn’t like being a superhero?)

  • Growing plants from a seed

  • Dress-ups

  • Racing leaves or bark boats in water

  • Home made cookies

  • Treasure hunts

  • Hide and seek

  • Play dough

  • A sandpit ;)

Thanks for spending time in my space today. Watch out for my next blog in the series, Clear Boundaries. Join me!

Until then……..

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I love helping families feel happier! If you would like to chat about how I can help you, and you live in Melbourne, follow this link to my “Contact Me” page.

This piece is written with the intention of helping parents create happier and more resilient children and is subject to copyright. Please contact the author if you wish to publish elsewhere.