be inspired
PictureLego Bricks by Benjamin Esham
I serve a host of incredible foster parents who master a vast array of skills.  They know more than average parents in their community about things like ADHD, PTSD, ODD, CD and FASD.  They are really like the elite athletes of parenting. 

However, every good coach remembers to bring elite athletes back to practice the fundamentals consistently.  We, as parents, need to be just as well versed with LOL, BFF, TTYL, and even, sadly, YOLO (just for example).  Parents need to practice the seemingly silly skills often and enthusiastically with their children.  Especially when you get stuck in the "disorderlies," these silly skills prove vital.

Here are seven essential skills to get you back in the game:

1) Baking

Haven't you heard?  Baking is magical.  It transforms environments completely.  First of all, it literally warms up your home.  People that feel warmer, feel warmer.  ( I get paid to make these observations.)  

Secondly, it fills your home with the aroma of kindness and security.  A study by researchers at the University of Southern Brittany showed clearly that simply the smell of fresh baked bread makes people kinder to strangers

Thirdly, if you eat the baking, and it happens to be sweet... (I really like GF Banana Bread at the moment, in case you're feeling kinder toward strangers already)  AND you repeat this pleasant experience over and over... You create a sweet spot in the brain that your child can go back to during stressful circumstances.  You build a powerful memory loop that will continue to "self sooth."

2) Lego

The essential skill with no essential skills required.  Anyone can build lego.  Building lego is all about imagination and wonder.  How cool would it be if you could crawl inside your child's dreams and plant positive affirmations that could last a lifetime?  Oh! You can!  By getting on the carpet with them and building lego.

3) Cartoons

Watching cartoons together is an amazing way to find yourself, with your kids, in the same room, laughing.  Walt Disney had this concept nailed and brought it both to his films and to his theme park(s).  Walt described the simple vision, "We believed in our idea - a family park where parents and children could have fun - together." Now, it's never been easier to watch both the current editions of cartoons your kids like, and their counterpart originals that you loved as a kid. 

4) Hot Wheels

Another, get down at your kids level, activity that both meets them where they're at, and lets you reminisce.  Hot Wheels are still Hot Wheels!!  But even better!!! (See YouTube Below) 

5) Sandcastles

Down on the ground at kid's level:  Check.  Honed this skill as a child yourself: Check.  Lasting memories guaranteed:  Check.  

Okay, this seems like a no-brainer.  But then, why do I see so many scenes like this at the beach:  Kids building sandcastles.  Parents sacked out on their towels tanning.  Lost opportunity, people.  Let's get wet and sandy!

6) Fort Building

My 14 year old's ninth grade class did this.  His teacher is clearly brilliant.  All it did was build a sense of community, grow camaraderie, produce teamwork, generate laughter, relieve stress, give kids a sense of control of their environment...  I don't know why you'd bother with this kind of stuff when you could be practicing spelling?!

7) Gaming

I left this one for last.  If your children love gaming, please, for the love of children, find a way to game with them.  Among many parents, a stigma has grown around gaming.  It's often seen as the great time waster, the obstacle to solid career growth, or that thing that keeps kids from going outside.  Look, doing anything to an extreme brings liabilities and cautions to holistic development.  As a parent, you do want to establish limits and guidance to gaming activities.

However, for the most part, I just meet a lot of parents that don't like gaming.  And then all that other stuff becomes a rationale for non-participation.

It all comes down to participation in the life of your child.  Rather than set yourself up as the opposition to your child's passion, find ways to get involved.  Ask questions.  Become a spectator.  Learn the lingo.  Try playing yourself.  Do these things and you make your child feel like the expert they are.  Put them in the position of tour guide, as they take you to a foreign country.  Gaming is really the great frontier for parents engagement with children.

Overall, why are these seven skills essential?  

Any skill that increases proximity between you and your child is essential.  It's actually building proximity that is the essential skill.  But it comes more quickly through many secondary skills, activities, languages, and attitudes that, at times, just seem silly.  Have fun!

Will you help us build the list?  What is your essential skill?