Ask any parent, and they’ll tell you that their parenting goal is to raise kids who are confident, happy and kind. We focus so much on creating schedules, routines, activities and extracurriculars for our kids with this end goal in mind. But if you think back to your own childhood, I bet you don’t remember most of those things. You might remember one-off small details like the way your favourite meal smelled, but overall, you remember the way you felt.
So how do we create an environment that feels positive to our kids? You might think the answer lies in being a perky, always happy mom, but I would invite you to change your perspective on that. Kids don’t want perfect, unrealistic robots for parents. Kids need parents who care deeply, and I already know you do or you wouldn’t be reading this.
Here are my top tips for creating a positive home environment, none of which have to do with being impossibly perky.
Focus on learnings, not on mistakes
When something goes wrong, try to focus on what we can learn from the situation, instead of focusing on the mistake. In times when I’ve been able to remember this, and respond to the mistake with understanding and encouragement, my kids have been able to focus on the resolution not on defending their actions. You don’t have to gloss over the mistake fully, and pretend that you’re happy that they spilled red food colouring all over the counter. You can clearly and calmly say “Now we have to clean up this mess”, and “Do you have any ideas of how we can keep that from happening again?”. When I haven’t remembered this to maintain this perspective, my kids react defensively, and we spend more time calming down before we can address the issue at hand.
Find activities that calm your kids
Encourage each of your kids to think of activities that they enjoy, that also help them feel calm. For my middle child, its colouring and making beaded necklaces. For my oldest, its reading and Lego. I encourage them to recognize the signs when they feel like they’re on edge, and then give them an opportunity to have some alone time with a favourite activity. Reframing it for them as an opportunity to take care of themselves, not a punishment where they’re being sent away helps them to embrace it as something they want to do proactively before things get to a tense boiling point.
When your kiddo is feeling irritable, or easily upset, you would encourage them to go take a break for themselves. Treat yourself like one of the kids, and ask yourself if you need to take a break. The answer is probably yes. While you probably can’t go have a spa day every time you feel stressed, you can incorporate small rituals into your day that make you feel more calm. For me, those moments are quick things that I can focus on in 10 minutes, so that if there is a time when everyone is playing happily, I can reach for one of these rituals. Some of my favourites are making a warm cup of tea (and a piece of chocolate), reading a bit of a magazine, adding to a gratitude journal, and taking care of plants. Any of these can be dropped or paused if something comes up, but I always make a point to try to do at least one of them a day, so that I don’t feel like a whole day has passed without doing something for myself.
Even when things aren’t perfect, there is still something to be grateful for. Talk with them about the things you’re grateful for as they are happening. Give them opportunities to write down what they’re thankful for. Encourage them to notice simple things throughout the day and remind each other that simply experiencing them together is amazing. Teaching them how to notice these things sets the foundation for them to have happier, more fulfilling lives by simply appreciating the small moments.
Create a safe space
Creating a positive home environment isn’t about creating an environment where nothing goes wrong. It’s about creating a space where they feel safe to feel the full range of emotions that all humans naturally feel. We can give them tools like journals to develop an emotional toolkit to reach for when they want to express themselves, and to note feelings of gratitude, happiness, worry and anxiety. Fostering that connection where they know they can come to you with the positives and the negatives is what gives them that feeling of safety and security. That’s what a positive home environment is really about.
As the parent, you have the ability and responsibility to set the tone for your home. By fostering a safe and caring environment for your whole family, you can help your kids build their confidence, resilience and positive mindset.
What do you do to create a positive environment in your home?