This post is the second in a two-part series where we’re taking the natural parenting hallmarks and adjusting them to respond to the needs of older children. Be sure to check out Natural Parenting and the Older Child: Part One, which covers “preparing for the next stage” and “feeding with love and respect.”
3. Responding with sensitivity: When children are very little, they need you to respond quickly and calmly to life’s challenging moments. This is especially true as children grow older and look to you to model appropriate responses to difficult situations. Even if your children don’t say anything, their (not-so) little eyes and ears are watching you and taking in everything. They will look to your actions to see how to respond to the next challenging situation.
4. Use nurturing touch: I can’t wear my seven year old in a sling, but I can hug him. I offer hugs, kisses, high fives and “fist bumps.” Nurturing touch can vary depending on the child; some kids love having their feet rubbed, hair brushed, or back scratched. Other children don’t like to be touched much. Of course you should respect your child’s cues and wishes in this matter, but always be ready for a warm hug if they need it.
5. Ensure safe sleep: The older a child becomes, the more they need a respectful sleep environment. Do they wish to have their own room (if possible) away from parents and siblings? Are they early or late risers, and how can that be accommodated into the family’s routines? Is their sleep environment physically comfortable for them? Are they able to get in and out of the room easily if an emergency should arise?
6. Provide consistent and loving care: Always leave your child with someone you know and trust. If you need before or after school care, ask to observe the environment. Don’t hesitate to ask if employees are background checked. It’s a good idea to teach your children about “safe touches” and to respect their bodies.
7. Practice positive discipline: As always, treat your children the way you want to be treated and the way you want others to treat them. I’ve found that the older children are, the more frustrating discipline can be, because they can argue, logic and reason back! Many parents find it helpful to really only “put their foot down” when it comes to matters of safety and a few other issues important to them.
8. Strive for balance in personal and family life: Older (school-aged) children can learn to wait. It’s okay to say on occasion, “I need to do this first/ I need privacy but I will help you as soon as I am done.” Then hold yourself to your words and help them. Let your children see you take care of yourself! You are important too. It’s perfectly okay to have activities or hobbies that do not center around your children. Just make sure you do plan for family time and special time with each one of your kids.
Other Natural Parenting Principles:
Ecological responsibility and a love of nature: While not every child loves the great outdoors, strive to teach them about it. Nature walks are fun, but so are natural museums. Older children can help in a community garden, read books about nature (natural disaster books are huge in our house) or watch science programs on TV. Sorting the recycling and helping with the compost pile are two great chores for older children that help them understand how our consumption affects the earth.
Holistic health practices: The older a child gets, the more say they should have in their health care. Explain why you feel they should see a chiropractor, for example, and how taking medicine really does help their body. Instill your values in them but know that the older they get (older teens) the more they will want and need to make their own medical choices.
Natural Learning: No matter what schooling choice your family makes, you are always your child’s first and most influential teacher. Take the time to discover the world together, from day trips to area attractions to star gazing in the backyard. Teach your children life skills (like fixing a broken car or making bread) and take classes together.
Keep up with technology and teach your children to be safe on-line. Many school districts, local colleges, community centers and churches offer on-line safety classes for parents and kids. Take advantage of them! Even if technology isn’t your “thing” it will play a huge part in the life of your child. Stay one step ahead of them and help keep them safe.