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Parenting the long game: Five steps to protect your child’s future

Hey working parents! Has anyone told you lately you’re doing a freaking great job caring for and protecting your kids: from taxi-ing them around, to helping them nod off to sleep and finding creative ways for them to socially connect. But beyond the daily defences, what are some steps we can take to see to it that our kids live happy, abundant lives into adulthood?

1. Raise active, fit and healthy kids

Keeping your kids in good physical and mental health is easily top of the list when it comes to setting them up for life. They don’t say ‘good health is everything’ for nothing!

Signing them up for organised sport is a brilliant way for them to get involved in regular activity and develop life skills like teamwork and respect. But if lockdown has given you the taste for a life that’s less ‘parent-taxi’ and more ‘family time’, there’s lots you can do to motivate kids to be active without all the rushing from point A to point B. You don’t need lots of equipment, planning or space to get kids moving at home – you just need to rediscover your playful side! 

Dancing, online workouts, or classic outdoor games like hopscotch and hide and seek will keep young kids laughing and moving. While older kids might go for ball games and bike rides. Plus, give kids plenty of opportunity to hit their hour of daily physical activity with trips to playgrounds and other sports facilities. 

Teaching kids to have a healthy relationship with food is the other half of the healthy habits equation. It’s all about serving up food filled with nutrients to fuel and energise their body. This can be a challenge for time-poor working parents, especially when up against ‘sometimes foods’ which are so darn convenient! (It helps to leave those on the supermarket shelves.) No pressure to have the freezer stocked with clean homemade snacks (unless that floats your boat), just keep things simple with options like a full fruit bowl on display, trail mix within easy reach and a fridge stocked with unsweetened dairy (or alternatives) and veggies

Teach kids to recognise when they’re hungry and full (the clean plate strategy doesn’t cut it!). Enjoy a healthy diet yourself (model the behaviour you want to see), enjoy meals together as a family wherever possible, and give kids the opportunity to help plan and prepare meals

2. Choose your beneficiaries and write your will

What?! No will?! No judgement! Though, considering a staggering 57% of Australian parents don’t have a will (the figures are much the same in the UK and US), there’s no better time than now to get will-making. And while, yes, it’s pretty grim to think about your death, what’s worse than imagining a future where your kids aren’t cared for the way you choose? Making a will not only gives you control over who cares for your kids should you become ill or die, it helps to secure your family’s financial future, can minimise family arguments about who gets what, and will help you sleep better at night.

And with online will platforms like Safewill making it easy and affordable to write a will online from the comfort of your home, there’s no excuse not to safeguard your life’s work today.

3. Get your family’s finances on track

So, this is equal parts 1) being intentional about your own saving and spending habits, 2) doing what you can to financially prepare for your family, and 3) teaching your kids the value of money. Have intentional, clear and positive first discussions with your kids about money. Encourage them to ‘have a go’ using cash or tap for purchases, help them to understand how you earn money, and what saving is and why you do it, and let’s not forget some life lessons on the joy of giving.

4. Share your love of reading

Dr Seuss was onto something when he said…

“The more that you read, the more things you will know.

The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.”

There’s a tonne of evidence to suggest that being a competent and engaged child reader is a predictor of life success. Like this study that shows a link between reading ability at seven and social class in later life

Bring books to life with silly voices and questions about the narrative. Set up a cosy reading nook and take your kids to your local library where they can choose from a wide range of styles and subjects. Books can nourish kids’ imaginations and curiosity. Encouraging reading at home will not only help to develop their language, concentration and social skills, but when shared with a parent or carer, can strengthen mutual understanding and connection.

5. Give the gift of a growth mindset

If you’re already praising effort over outcome and avoiding putting labels (good or bad) on your kids, then you’re familiar with the research of Carol Dweck on growth and fixed mindsets (not to mention, you’re kicking ass at parenting!). Carol’s studies show that teaching kids to understand that their intelligence and abilities can be improved with effort and the right strategies can boost their achievement. Teaching a growth mindset is about empowering your kids to deal with whatever’s thrown at them, push them to the far reaches of their abilities, and equip them with the tools they need to pursue their goals through even the most difficult circumstances. No easy feat, but a super valuable life skill.

Praise not only effort but the way your child approaches a challenge. Use the magic word ‘yet’ to counter any negative self-talk. Encourage kids to take age- and development-appropriate challenges so if they fail, they can learn from their mistakes without suffering long-term or devastating consequences. Talk openly with your kids about your thought processes and mistakes – kids who see their parents’ failures and hear them being worked through will be better equipped to do the same. 

Here are just a few key ways to set your kids up with a secure financial future and healthy behaviour patterns to last into adulthood. What other ways are you parenting the long game?

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