OLD SAYBROOK, Conn. (WTNH) – “Know their temperament, know what their strengths and weaknesses are,” says Alicia Farrell, a cognitive psychologist based in Old Saybrook.
She says we can’t control or prevent mental health issues in our kids but: “All we can do is try to give them the tools and help them learn the tools so they can sustain themselves when things get difficult.”
We can do that through “authoritative parenting” – a style that raises kids with grit and resilience, confidence and self-assurance.
It’s collaborative, meaning we parent in a thoughtful, proactive way while conversing and problem-solving with our children.
Even so, mom and dad always have the authority.
“You need to maintain control while you’re letting go,” says Farrell. “Parenting is a serve and return. So, you serve, your kids return – your kids serve, you return and that authoritative serve and return is the healthiest.”
Make a framework by setting family values.
Being on the same page as our partner is key.
“You’re going to use those to ground yourself in your relationship with your kids – use those values to establish boundaries and expectations with your children,” she explains.
Values like civility and integrity.
“We’re good on our word, we follow through,” says Farrell.
Also, trust and honesty. “As your parent, I’m going to be honest with you, and sometimes it’s not going to feel good and sometimes you’re going to be honest with me and it’s not going to feel good,” she says, role-playing a healthy conversation.
Compassion is also an important value. Kids should have not just for others but also for themselves.
“So many of the kids I see these days have a deep self-hatred that’s coming out of this complicated world we’re living in and the expectations that they’re under,” says Farrell.
Farrell says parents don’t have to be perfect either but making a real effort could change the trajectory of a child’s life.
“Think for yourself, find your confidence, and forgive and apologize when you make a mistake.,” she says.
Click here to see a series of Farrell’s free webinars about parenting styles, technology, and substance abuse.