While the shopping frenzy has died down a bit, I thought I would give you some gift ideas for your children that you won’t find at the mall. But they are infinitely more valuable than anything money can buy.
1) Safe Bases: All kids need important adults in their lives who are not their parents. These safe bases are people who love your child unconditionally and who will be there for them no matter what. They are mentors kids can turn to for advice, support, and encouragement. They can see things in your child that they can’t yet see in themselves, and thus can hold a higher vision of them until kids can grow into it.
2) Autonomy and Power: Children need to have lots of ways to feel powerful, have a voice, have say-so in their lives, and to have a sense of autonomy. Parents can gift them with choices, decision-making, and places to feel valuable. Young adults need the freedom to live the life they are meant to live, to be allowed to forge their own path, and to find their own purpose and destiny vs. follow a trail their parents have laid out for them. Having autonomy brings everyone more self-motivation, engagement, and fulfillment in all that they experience and achieve.
3) Time: This is obviously a biggie. And one of the best experiences is one-on-one time with a parent, having special “dates” if you will. But any moment where parents are 100% there, undistracted, and giving their daughter or son their full attention is golden. One of the most heart-felt presents a child can receive is when they have a story to tell their parents, and they hear these magical words: “Take all the time you need.”
4) Modeling: Gandhi’s quote comes to mind here: “Be the change you are trying to create.” Living with parents who: have a loving relationship and who resolve conflicts peacefully; take good care of their bodies and friends and themselves; stay in integrity in every choice and situation they find themselves in; this makes it easier for kids to live this out as well. They are always watching us in everything that we say and do, so be sure you are consciously living a life worth emulating.
5) Unconditional Love and Acceptance: Last but certainly not least, this is the gift that will keep on giving. We are our children’s 1st mirrors, and what they see reflected back when they look at us tells them that they are fine the way they are or a disappointment. Be sure you don’t give off messages that you are trying to change them into someone you want them to become, because they will interpret that as “I’m not good enough”. Allow quiet kids to be shy and slow to warm; let non-athletic kids get involved in theater and art and music instead of forcing them into competitive sports like “all the other kids”. Self-acceptance and self-love grows out of the template formed when your caregivers affirm and love you unconditionally first.
And remember that kids who feel heard are more likely to listen; kids who are given power and control appropriately are more likely to cooperate; kids who are forgiven are more likely to forgive; kids who are respected are more likely to be respectful; and kids who are loved will be able to be loving and compassionate to others. You won’t find these gifts underneath any trees, but they are crucial for any child to grow up healthy and happy.