What does it mean to “nurture” a child? Caring for, looking after, raising, rearing—those are all wonderful words that express some part of what parents do when they nurture their children. But practically speaking, the word encompasses so much more. Research has shown that “families who focus on nurturing the mind, body, and spirit raise kids who are less likely to engage in high-risk behaviors, and are more likely to grow up thriving.” But what does that involve exactly? How do we as parents nurture the minds, spirits and bodies of our children? While there are differences for the different ages and stages of children’s lives, there seem to be some very specific steps that we can all take.
Nurturing the Mind
Most parents understand the importance of nurturing a child’s mind, but doing so involves much more than just making sure your child gets a good education. It means being involved, both at home and at your child’s school.
- Understand how your child’s brain works. While every child is different, medical professionals have established important benchmarks that indicate whether your child is on pace. Read up on information related to your child’s age, what he or she should be learning, how they should be acting, what is “healthy” and what is not.
- Watch and discover how your child learns so that you can help him or her learn more easily. Everyone learns differently. Some people learn best by hearing, some by reading, and some by doing. Some learn through a combination of methods. Pay attention to how your children learn. Then help them develop study habits that are most effective for them.
- Support academic growth. Encourage your child to do well in school, but remember that children have different strengths. You want your child to do his or her best, whatever that may be. Try not to compare your child to other children.
- Read to your child. Let your child read to you. Know what they are learning in school. Demonstrate an enthusiasm about their education. Help your child succeed by giving him or her extra help when needed. Know your child’s teachers, and communicate positively with them.
- Help your children develop control over themselves both physically and mentally. Help them learn stress reduction methods. Encourage them to find appropriate ways to express difficult emotions. Engage in activities that encourage children to demonstrate empathy and compassion.
Nurturing the Spirit
Spirituality is not just an “adult thing.” Children are spiritual beings too, and children who have been encouraged to place a high priority on spiritual development are often much less likely to engage in high risk behaviors, are more likely to do better academically, and more likely to be leaders among their peers. In addition, spirituality usually encourages a positive view of one’s future.
- Involve your child in age-appropriate church activities starting when they are very young. Communities of faith offer support, encouragement, stability and empowerment.
- Don’t shy away from your child’s spiritual questions. If you find yourself unable to answer or find the answers, seek guidance from a pastor or other spiritual leader. Encourage spiritual discussions.
- Allow your child to take part in spiritual traditions, and be ready to explain their significance.
- Make your beliefs a part of your daily life. Include them in your reading, your discussions, your music and viewing choices.
- Model the kind of behavior you value. Don’t just “preach” it. Live it.