Neufeld Institute

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Monday, June 30, 2014

Creating an Environment for Children to Thrive


Children have been compared to flowers often as the similarities are evident - they are beautiful, they are unique, they require tender, loving care, they bloom in their own time. Often we focus on changing our child rather than changing their environment, but changing the environment has a big impact on how our children grow. If we consciously tend to our gardens, our flowers will blossom.

The Physical Environment

1. It's hard with small children, but try to keep the clutter to a minimum. Simple, neat spaces are more pleasing and soothing than cluttered and crowded spaces.

2. Subtle d├ęcor can have a big impact. Fresh flowers on the table, light-hearted wall hangings or beautiful art all add to the feeling of your home.

3. Pleasant scents lift moods. Did you know that the human sense of smell can identify thousands of aromas and is 10,000 times more precise than our sense of taste? Find what scents energize your children and what scents soothe them.

4. Provide toys and activities that children can reach/do independently without the help of an adult. Put as much on their level as you are comfortable with, including healthy snacks, books, puzzles and games, cups/plates/utensils, etc. Provide a mirror at your child's level. Have stools available at sinks.

5. Let the sunshine in! Open shades and windows. Research has proven that natural lighting helps people be more productive, happier, healthier and calmer.


The Mental Environment

1. Protect your children as best as you can from things which are not age appropriate. This means mature television shows, video games, or movies with themes their young minds may not be ready for.

2. Be a role model! As much as you can show them how to live joyfully, laugh loudly, bounce back, show compassion, be optimistic, positive, and happy is as much as they will be able to do the same.

3. Ensure your child gets the proper nutrition, sleep, and exercise as these affect mental health.

4. Love, security and acceptance should be at the heart of your family life.  Children need to know that your love does not depend on his or her accomplishments.Confidence grows in a home that is full of unconditional love and affection.

5. Nurture your child's confidence and self-esteem. Encourage them, Be their cheerleader. Give healthy praise. Set realistic goals. Avoid sarcastic remarks.

6. Let them play! Free play, messy play, exploring, and unstructured play time are great for children. Most of it comes off in the shower!

7.  Ensure a positive, safe school environment. Work closely with your child's teachers. Always advocate for your child when necessary. Keep lines of communication flowing so that your child feels he or she can discuss problems with you.

8. Build competencies. Children need to know that they can overcome challenges and accomplish goals through their actions. Achieving academic success and developing individual talents and interests helps children feel competent and more able to deal positively with the stresses of life. Social competency is also important. Having friends and staying connected to friends and loved ones can enhance mental well-being.

9. Create a sense of belonging. Children need to feel connected and welcomed, and this is vital to their developing sense of self and their trust in themselves and others. Greet your child warmly every morning and after school. Include your child in on family meetings. Creating warm and memorable family traditions will build a sense of tradition and closeness in the family unit. Help your child develop positive relationships with outside family members, teachers, clergy, coaches, and peers.

10. Teach your child healthy mental boundaries. Explain that they have a choice in choosing peers who bring out the best in them and in staying away from people who don't. Show them how to set and enforce limits with others and be assertive. Role play how to handle multiple situations in which their values and limits may be tested so that they feel empowered in dealing with this when it arises.


The Emotional Environment

1. Ensure each child feels safe to express his/her feelings.

2. Keep family drama away from the kids. It's okay for the children to see parents argue as long as no one is verbally abusive and it ends peacefully as this can model positive skills, but if you can't keep from shouting and insulting, keep it away from the kids.

3. Sibling squabbles are to be expected, but make sure it doesn't get out of hand. If a sibling is feeling bullied or being hurt physically or mentally, you need to step in.

4. Avoid comparing your children to each other and to other children.

5. Respect your children. Listen to them and take them seriously. Make them feel like a valued member of the family unit.

6. Accept all feelings and teach children how to manage their emotions.

7. Create and respect healthy boundaries. Verbal and physical abuse obviously violates their boundaries. Additionally, children’s property, space, and privacy should be respected.

8. Allow children age appropriate decisions, responsibilities, and independence.

9. Be fair and reasonable in your discipline. Do not give consequences when you are emotionally charged.

10. Allow them to be who they are and nurture and love the child you have.

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