Regardless of how old your kid(s) are or what circumstances they may find themselves in, I've got a few suggestions that I believe all kids need. This is beyond simply making sure your kid is dressed or has a roof over their head. Listen, that sort of stuff has to go without saying (we don't want the Department of Child and Family Services knocking on your door to take your littles away). These are FIVE things that your kids need whether they are three or thirteen or thirty-three! Now if you're crushing it with one or two of these, then choose one of the other suggestions and give it a whirl for a while!
We live in a world that will invariably tear your kids down. It's not IF people will be cruel to them, it's WHEN will they. To combat the cruelty of the world, I suggest giving your kids meaningful compliments. A while ago I wrote about making sure the compliments you give your kids are not just based on appearance or something that simply doesn't matter in the long run (i.e. "Wow Jenny, your hair looks amazing today!") but based on their character or something that they are truly working on. If you're complimenting your kids' appearance, ADD something else that's maybe a bit more than something skin deep. Sample meaningful compliments, "Gah you are really someone who is brave/kind/smart/generous." or "I loved seeing you do this act of service!" Also, if your kid has kids of their own, COMPLIMENT THEIR PARENTING! As someone with two kiddos who is trying his best to raise them to be wonderful humans, a compliment about how great I'm doing, or trying to do goes a LONG way!
I love the idea of giving your kid a purpose. It may be a small, short-term purpose like making a friend at school or completing their chores for the day. It maybe a large, longterm purpose like graduating from college or becoming an incredible parent. Whatever the case maybe for you and your little make sure they have a purpose. So often people get lost in the day to day hustle and bustle of life that they can lose sight of their individual purpose. When you're chatting with your kiddos, you might even ask THEM for an idea about what THEIR purpose is. "What do you want to accomplish this year in school?" or "Why do you want to run a marathon this year?" Making sure your kids have a purpose gives them a goal to accomplish and a goal you can follow up with.
3. To Be Heard.
Kids need to be heard. They need a listening ear. This doesn't mean that you capitulate to whatever demand they may bring to your doorstep, but it does mean that they need to know you are willing to hear them out. I remember when one of my kids was really upset at something that had happened with a friend. She came to me and wanted to tell me why she was so upset. Regrettably I found myself distracted with my phone and getting dinner ready. In as innocent but frustrated as a tone I've ever heard from this little friend of mine, she said, "I don't even feel like you're listening to me." I put the phone down and listened to her talk about her situation. To be honest, I don't remember anything that she said about her friend, but burned in my memory was this little girl's loving criticism that I simply wasn't listening to her. Listen to your kids.
4. A Second Chance.
"Oh please Dad! Give me just ONE more chance!?" We can close our eyes and imagine our nuggets saying this time and time again- and the truth is, why don't we? Why don't we give them that second chance? Why don't we let them realize the joy of getting back up again and trying again after a failed attempt (or two, or three)? Kids make mistakes. My mom lovingly remembers her mom having a sign on the fridge that read something to the effect, "Dear Lord, help me remember it's not his fault he's thirteen." Remember that what you're giving your kids is a second chance to make a better choice. If you are clear with your reason for giving the second chance, you'll likely get more positive results!
5. An Example.
On Inc.com's list of 10 Ways to Give Your Child a Head Start in Life, their first suggestion is to be your kids best example. George Carlin said it a bit differently, "If your kids need a role model and you ain't it, you're both F#@*^!." We get the point George. Making sure you are setting a good example for your kids is something they will cherish (and likely emulate) their whole lives. "Why do you do [something] that way?" "Oh that's how my mom/dad did it." Do I put peanut butter, bananas, and mayonnaise on two slices of bread and call it a sandwich? Yes I do! Why? That's how my mom always did it! We know the drill. Make sure you're being a great example for your kids. Choose how you want them to be, and then make darn sure that you're being that way yourself!
If I missed something on this list, drop a line and give me your suggestions for what else kiddos need!