The ABC’s for Parents for the Year(s) Ahead
Dr. Joanne Foster – www.joannefoster.ca
These ABCs are starting points to help parents of little ones navigate the present and power through the challenges and changes that will inevitably occur.
A – Attunement What makes your child tick? Pay attention to what they say and do. Ask helpful questions. Offer encouragement. This may seem basic, but it’s integral to their well-being and advancement.
B – Brainpower Brain health influences cognitive, physical, emotional, and other forms of development. Demonstrate smart habits such as rest, reflection, reading, and meaningful interactions with others. Brain-building activities include exploration and exposure to various kinds of sensory stimulation. Research continues to shed light on new neuroscientific understandings, so you can learn more about how the body and brain work in tandem.
C – Connections Connections provide links, networks, information, and support. Channels of communication facilitate involvement, foster creativity, strengthen relationships, and lead to opportunities for collaborative action.
D – Diversity Differences among individuals can be related to age, race, socio-economic status, modes of learning, beliefs, culture, physical or cognitive abilities, and more. Teach your child that differences are assets, and diversity is a strength.
E – Emotional Intelligence Help your child identify and understand their feelings. This will enable them to learn how to regulate them, and how to be open-minded, empathic, and respectful of others.
F – Flexibility Be amenable to different ideas, learning options, dynamics, environments, and ways to reinforce your child’s autonomy, resilience, and confidence. Offer choice and encouragement as they try new activities, adapt, and take the next steps.
G – Generosity of spirit Embody important attributes such as kindness and integrity. Teach your child to share; to contribute to family and community; to value honesty, forgiveness, and responsibility; and to be gracious toward others.
H – Health Show your child the importance of self-care, and how exercise, nutrition, and adequate sleep promote wellness. There are many strategies (including professional counseling) to help parents become more informed about generating healthy outcomes.
I – Information Information gathering should be an ongoing process over the course of parenting, whether things are running smoothly or not. Life never stays the same, so be resourceful. Tap into community resources, support systems, and multiple sources. A strong problem-solving attitude will also help you discover your own capacities and ingenuity. The pendulum is always swinging!
J – Joy Children need opportunities to play, investigate, and be creative. Celebrate their efforts, journeys, and accomplishments. They may not be able to catch a star, count all the seashells, or climb a mountain but there’s joy in trying, pondering possibilities, and believing in themselves.
K – Keys Parenting is a multifaceted responsibility. How to prioritize? Here are three keys to unlock the finest possibilities for your child: (1) safety; (2) encouraging their interests, strengths, and curiosity—along with opportunities to pursue them; and (3) being available—to listen, observe, set good examples, and offer support and guidance as needed
L – Learning Experiences Learning can happen anytime, anywhere. Convey that you’re always open to acquiring knowledge and building skills across physical, social, emotional, or other domains so your child can appreciate the importance of this. Take time to be in tune with body, mind, senses, and surroundings.
M – Motivation Motivation fuels personal engagement and achievement. Opportunities that are manageable, pleasant, and relevant present children with enticing possibilities for learning.
N – Nucleus Ideally, the family circle is a place where love, caring, and security are unconditional. Offer meaningful experiences, direction, and reassurance within the warm embrace of a loving family. Nurture your child’s well-being while helping them forge independence.
O – Optimal Match The Optimal Match approach to teaching and learning involves identifying educational needs and then addressing them by selecting from a broad range of opportunities. (See Being Smart about Gifted Education for detailed information on this practical and conceptually sound approach.)
P – Play The social, cognitive, and physical competencies your child practices during play become a foundation upon which intelligence, creativity, skill sets, and productivity are built. Play can be collaborative, independent, unstructured, and imaginative. Plus, it’s fun!
Q – Questions Embrace inquiry. Encourage your child’s emerging needs to know more about themselves and the world as you help them explore their enthusiasms and discover their strengths.
R – Respect Be respectful of your child’s areas of strength and weakness—at different stages of development, and across domains. Each child is a unique and complex entity.
S – Sensitivity Sometimes kids experience difficulties (for example, during times of transition, uncertainty, or challenge). Help your child feel supported and soothed by being patient, sensitive to their feelings, and understanding of their behaviors.
T – Thankful Encourage your child to feel gratitude for all that they’re able to do and acquire. “Not only material possessions, creature comforts, or privileges but rather the blessings, connections, strengths, and opportunities they enjoy, including the efforts put forth by others for their benefit.” (See more in The Power of Gratitude at The Creativity Post.)
U – Understandings Find out all you can about child development—conceptual bases, implications, joys, and complexities. Be mindful of what’s best for your own child and family dynamic. Developmental pathways may not be smooth, and asynchrony is not uncommon. Moreover, each learning environment, set of circumstances, social milieu, transition, educational decision, and span of growing up years has its own stamp of distinction—to be reflected upon, and addressed.
V – Volition Volition refers to the act of choosing—for example, whether to put forth an effort, participate in activities, or collaborate—just some of the many choices that children have. Reinforce their willingness to try, and to learn from trying, and to try again if need be.
W – Wonder Spark your child’s curiosity and awareness of how they learn. This includes “aha!” moments, unexpected interactions, serendipity, the beauty of nature, and more. Notice, appreciate, share.
X – Xperience Xperience evolves, transpiring 24/7 whether we’re aware of it or not. By helping children make the most of their experiences, they can develop know-how, foresight, judgment, and convictions.
Y – Yes A hopeful outlook lightens loads. Optimism and an “I can!” attitude can propel learning. Consider your child’s questions, concerns, interests, and behaviors from a positive perspective, and encourage their positivity, too.
Z – Zoom Increasingly Zoom has been a platform for families’ learning, connectivity, and pleasure. However, zoom also means forward momentum. It makes good sense to help your child set attainable goals, and reach for them—and to share together unbridled enthusiasm for the wonderful opportunities that each day can offer.
About the Author Dr. Joanne Foster is an award-winning author who writes about child development and gifted education. Her most recent book is Being Smart about Gifted Learning: Empowering Parents and Kids Through Challenge and Change (co-authored with Dona Matthews). See, too, Dr. Foster’s book, ABCs of Raising Smarter Kids, from whence many of the ideas here emerge (and wherein more from A to Z await your perusal). For additional information and for access to abundant articles and timely resources on children’s well-being, creativity, intelligence, productivity, and learning, go to www.joannefoster.ca.