“What is essential is invisible to the eye.” - The Little Prince
Every parent wants the best for their child. And often the finest gifts a parent gives are not materialistic. They are invisible, presented through words, actions and feelings.
The wonderful thing about these gifts is that every parent can give them to her or his children. They don't cost money. They are accessible to all. And they last forever.
In the times of the corona virus, material objects have lost a little of their value. Our gifts don't invariably have to be stuff we can hold or own. Objects fade away. Clothes go out of style. But values stay forever.
The values you ingrain in your children through your love, actions and words will stay with them eternally. Here are some suggestions for gifts every parent can give to their children.
1. Unconditional love
When a caregiver loves a child, they communicate to the child that they are worthy of being loved.
The child learns what it feels to be loved. They learn how to accept love & reciprocate it. When the love is unconditional, it gives the child the freedom to express themselves, take risks, and cultivate a close and honest relationship.
How do you communicate your unconditional love to your children? It doesn't always have to be verbal - although verbal communication of affection is important. Also, unconditional loving does not mean that you cannot correct children, set boundaries or discipline them.
A parent’s unconditional love shines through even in their discipline. Children are way more intuitive than us. They can feel your emotions beyond your words.
Your unconditional love is communicated at the level of your vibration, and is solidified by a million moments of caring and love since birth.
If children take this love for granted, that's okay. A parent’s unconditional love is the trampoline on which they can jump high to touch the sky, always knowing that they can fall back into the security and safety of this love.
Let your child know you love them unconditionally by forgiving them when they make a mistake, allowing them to be imperfect, uplifting them and most importantly being kind.
2. Instilling Kindness - teaching by example
The world needs kind people. A key value a parent can instill in their child is kindness- kindness for people, birds, animals, plants, the earth, and towards self.
Children learn more by observing you, than your words. As a parent, when you demonstrate kindness to someone, you teach your kids to be kind. Simple things like opening doors, taking care of pets, watering plants, recycling, donating to worthy causes, are all small acts of kindness.
You can involve your children in these activities. Help them spend time with an elderly relative, or put things that you won't buy, back in the their aisle in the grocery store (rather than leaving them someplace else in the store). Let them thank their teachers and share (with social distancing) with fellow students.
Parents can teach kindness towards self by helping children forgive themselves when they make a mistake, and giving them space to be imperfect as they learn.
Exercise: Make a list of the kind acts you commonly do. Brainstorm how you could involve your children in those when appropriate? What other acts of kindness can you add to your list for the future? Plan to do at least one act of kindness a week with your kids.
3. Accepting those who are different from us
It’s easy to be kind to people similar to us. It's harder to show kindness to people different from us.
But everyone deserves kindness, even if they don't look, talk or behave like us.
Often children, especially young, don’t notice these differences. It takes a while for the I-ness and you-ness to manifest.
If you have a diverse group of friends that you can mingle with, it's great. Your kids have the advantage of a richer social fabric. However, you could also introduce your children to different cultures through movies, books, & food.
Letting the child know that there are different kinds of people in this world, and that these differences are to be celebrated, not admonished, is a invaluable gift a parent can give to humanity. By teaching acceptance of different cultures, we create citizens of the world, who can live in harmony with each other.
Exercise: Pick a culture you want kids to know more about. Plan a dinner and movie night around that theme. If the kids are older, they can research the movie and the menu.
4. The gift of friendliness
Children are friendly by nature. They only need to be encouraged.
Years ago, and in some cultures even now, children grew up in joint families with lots of cousins, uncles and aunts. They had many natural opportunities to engage with others, learn how to be interested in people and connect with them.
Nowadays, parents have to create their own village. It may be your friends, extended family or neighbors.
While ensuring their safety, encourage kids to make friends. Being friendly doesn't always mean making BFFs. It's a trait to be social, being open & interested in others, and an ability to connect with others.
Exercise: Set up play dates for your kids with social distancing. Say hello to your neighbors, grocery store staff, or people you may see around the neighborhood. Encourage your kids to do the same.
5. Connecting to a bigger purpose in life
Sri Sri says that the surest and quickest way to get depressed is to keep asking, ‘what about me?’
When we care for something outside of ourselves & our needs - it expands our world view and makes our own problems smaller and manageable. It makes us a more complete person.
Research shows that those who volunteer report a higher life satisfaction.
By planting the seeds of volunteerism early on, you would be assuring that as adults, your children will help those in need, and live a life that benefits the world beyond their immediate relationships, problems & daily routine. In turn, they would be helping themselves live a richer, & more meaningful life.
You could encourage kids to volunteer in an age appropriate setting, or mentor other kids. Often teens do this as a summer job or to build their resume. But the awareness could start at a younger age, and without any incentive other than doing good for goodness sake.
Quarantine does limit in person opportunities, but kids can still learn about the challenges facing us right now, and participate in making things better when they can.
Simple things kids can do to care for a bigger cause- creating signs with hopeful messages and placing it in your yard, recycling, fundraising, sending thank you notes to essential care workers, & organizing a food drive.
Helping raise a loving, kind, & friendly human being who accepts and helps others is the biggest gift a parent can give to their child, and humanity. As a parent, it is your immortal contribution to the world.