Parenthood is a fluster of activities and busyness—and nowadays, childhood is too! In between juggling their schedule and yours, it's hard to find the time to slow down and show your children the nurturing love and attention they need. Susan Mangiero helps you and your kids take a much needed "time-out" and find meaningful ways to connect with each other.
It's no secret: Moms today are busier than they've ever been before. In addition to juggling hectic career or volunteering schedules and household duties, modern mothers stay extra busy rushing their kids from one activity to the next. That's because they, like most parents, are laser-focused on helping their children thrive—which today often means tutoring sessions, music lessons, sports teams, and hours spent volunteering. But in the race to shuttle kids to their various classes and appointments, mothers have no time left for simply loving and nurturing their little ones. Susan Mangiero says there's hope.
"Mothers love their kids and want to give them great lives, but nurturing somehow gets lost in the shuffle," says Mangiero, author of The Big Squeeze: Hugs & Inspirations for Every Grown-Up Who Loves Teddy Bears. "It's normal for parents to want to give their children plenty of enriching opportunities. But the best-case scenario is balancing a few special activities that your child enjoys, with enough free time left for love and nurture."
The good news is, even if yours is a super-busy family, you can still give your children the love and kindness they need. Mangiero says small, meaningful moments that show you care go a very long way. Simply spending time with your child builds trust and fosters a relationship that will only grow stronger over the years. And like all the best things in life, these nurturing moments are free.
Mangiero is well qualified to speak on the subject of nurturing. She has made her mark in financial services and now consults to companies in that hard-driving industry on growing their business with investment clients at a time when trust is low, anxiety about the future is high, and investors want extra care. And as a Junior Achievement volunteer, she taught children and later served as a freshman advisor and university professor.
"It's an incredibly natural thing to nurture our children," says Mangiero. "But in order to do that, one must be fully in the moment and not distracted, frazzled, and exhausted."
Keep reading for Mangiero's eight tips for spending quality time with your children and teaching them strong nurturing habits they can take with them into adulthood.
- Scale back their activities. If your child is overscheduled, you can bet that they don't have time to connect with you or themselves. But making a little extra time in their day frees them (and you) to learn about and practice better self-care. So first of all, select one or two activities—or better yet, let your children select them—to trim from their schedule. This gives the entire family time to stop and smell the roses, enjoy the present, and reenergize.
- Teach them to search for the good stuff each day offers. One of the best things you can do for your child is to teach them to take an optimistic outlook on life. Helping them focus on happiness, kindness, and gratitude from a young age is key. Make a habit of asking your child to name five things that made him or her happy—or five kind things they did for someone or something—at the end of each day. You'll benefit from this exercise too, as it reminds you to keep a positive mindset and helps you keep your focus on happiness.
- Limit the "things" and focus on simple gifts instead. Your kids don't really need every new toy that's on the market, the very best clothes, or the latest status symbol to be happy. Instead, focus on giving them experiences instead of material possessions. You can do this by taking them to museums, going on a vacation as a family, heading to a concert, volunteering at an animal shelter, or even going to the library to check out some new books to read.
- "There are so many simple gifts in life," says Mangiero. "When you focus on small wonders instead of the newest toy, it helps your children tune in to the world around them, and enables them to develop empathy and connection—important life skills for everyone."
- Embrace your children's differences. Your children are not you, and that's okay, says Mangiero. Parents often expect their children to be just like them and may be upset when they begin blooming into individuals. "Try not to force your children into swimming, for example, just because you loved the water as a child," says Mangiero. "Instead, let them choose their own interests and try not to judge them if they reject the activities you favor."
- Take them on adventures. Life shouldn't be drudgery, says Mangiero. At the same time, you can take them on low-cost or even free "adventures" any time! Set up a tent in the living room and explore exotic lands together from your own house. Or ask your kids to plan a meal of exotic foods and recipes from different countries. Tonight could be Greek night, or Italy night, or China night. This way, the whole family can enjoy international cuisine from home. To up the education factor, you can even make flashcards together, complete with interesting factoids about the countries whose food you're sampling.
- Give them plenty of hugs. Hugs are a comforting expression of love, so hug your child or your children often. Mangiero, who collects and literally wrote the book on teddy bear mojo, points out that giving a loved one a squeeze gives us a giant dose of happiness. Research shows that hugs given with pure, loving, appropriate intentions (Mangiero calls them "safe hugs") have both physical and emotional benefits. Further, make sure your young child has at least one furry friend like a teddy bear or stuffed animal to hug any time they need a dose of comfort. "Hug your kids every day," says Mangiero. "Hug them even when they're teens and pretend to resist you. Older kids are worried about looking cool, but they really crave your affection at every age."
- Read to them. Reading to your young children is one of the best ways to nurture them, says Mangiero. Her book, The Big Squeeze: Hugs & Inspirations for Every Grown-Up Who Loves Teddy Bears, is perfect bedtime reading for adults and kids alike because it's full of life lessons, encouragement, and, of course, photos of adorable teddy bears.
- Teach them to "take a breath" with tech-free time. In our overconnected world, it's all too common to see children preoccupied with phones, tablets, and laptops—or glued to the television. Mangiero urges you to teach your children to enjoy tech-free downtime and to savor the moment at hand. So unplug as a family and give your kids (and yourself) permission to take things easier. And if you're looking for a rewarding experience you can enjoy together, try out the popular new yoga or meditation classes for families. "Your children will be children for only a short while," concludes Mangiero. "The nurturing you show them now teaches them to connect with others and continues serving them throughout their lives. And remember that while nurturing certainly benefits your kids, it is just as healthy and important for you. Instead of reducing your role to that of a taskmaster keeping your children on schedule, the meaningful, mindful time you spend with your children can bring you joy, alleviate stress, and deepen your relationship as parent and child."
About the Author:
Dr. Susan Mangiero is the author of The Big Squeeze: Hugs & Inspirations for Every Grown-Up Who Loves Teddy Bears (Happy Day Press, 2017, ISBN: 978-0-997-50232-9, $14.95, www.hugsandjoy.com). She coaches financial organizations on using trust, kindness, and nurturing to develop their relationship-building skills and grow their brand. Recognized as a thought leader in the areas of fiduciary best practices and trust-based business development, she has advised numerous companies, government organizations, and policy-making bodies. She is a Certified Fraud Examiner, forensic economist, and storyteller with experience in competitive strategy, client satisfaction, and risk management.
In addition to writing nearly 50 articles and chapters that have been published in prominent investment industry journals, magazines, and books, Mangiero has penned over 1,000 economic commentaries for her award-winning blog, Pension Risk Matters®. She has had the pleasure of leading workshops for thousands of business professionals about leadership best practices and the importance of integrity and empathy in attracting and retaining customers.
About the Book:
The Big Squeeze: Hugs & Inspirations for Every Grown-Up Who Loves Teddy Bears (Happy Day Press, 2017, ISBN: 978-0-997-50232-9, $14.95, www.hugsandjoy.com), by Dr. Susan Mangiero, is a sweet and uplifting gift book focused on the undeniable truth that kindness to ourselves, and others, matters. It is available on Amazon and can be purchased in bulk at a discount or customized for client or fundraising events by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.