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Whether you’re a new or seasoned parent, I’m sure you can agree that having a baby changes everything.  There is nothing harder, more rewarding, and more important than being a parent, and once you are, family takes on a whole new meaning.  I would like to share a few thoughts on parenting and building a strong family unit.

There is no bigger influence in your children’s lives than you.  You smile, and they smile back; they are watching, listening, and picking up cues from you from the get go and for many years to come. Children learn what they live, so model behaviors you would like to see in them.  If you want them to be kind, respectful, and patient, be kind, respectful, and patient with them and those around you.

Be a strong parent, and by that I mean set rules and routines and stick to them.  Kids not only need rules, but also thrive because of them.  Rules teach self-control and help children understand what behavior is expected of them and what will happen if they don’t comply.  Rules in the home translate to laws outside, so don’t be afraid to make them and enforce them.  Routines and schedules make everyone feel better and give our kids a sense of security.  Children fear the unknown and change, and throughout their childhood they have to face hundreds of new situations.  When it’s time to take on a new challenge, structure and routine at home help your child feel safe and ready to meet it. In addition, routines keep kids on schedule, help them cooperate, help eliminate power struggles and help parents stick to healthy expectations for everyone in the family.

To build a strong family unit, make time for family, make memories, and keep the traditions going.  You’ve all heard the cliché “it goes by so fast” — well, it really does.  At times, the days can seem endless, but the years keep flying by.  It’s amazing — you bring home a newborn and before you know it, he’s walking, and then talking, starting school, wanting to drive, then talking about college!  The best method to help cope: memories… make them and make them often.  Be there for your children; play with them, laugh with them, read with them, cook with them, and share with them.  Eat together as often as possible, have family movie night, game night, and take vacations together. We are so lucky now with cell phones to have a photo and video camera available right in the palm of our hands — use it.  Something else to do: share your favorite memory of the day and have your children do the same.  Then jot those memories down in a little book and keep them forever.

Finally, at the end of the day, after all the rules, routines, and memories, kiss your kids and remind yourself and your kids how blessed you are.

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