If you have ever had your own children or spent quality time around children you will appreciate how beautifully innocent they really are! Innocence is a difficult concept to define – I believe it relates to how uncorrupted our moral compass or soul is and how secure we feel in our micro-world. Children are born innocent – it is the experiences we encounter everyday that results in loss of innocence. Characteristics of innocence include being playful, happy, trusting, loving and demonstrative. Think about your own childhood – doesn’t your happiest memories include elements of some or all of these characteristics?
Spend even a short amount of time with children and you appreciate how fundamentally different from adults they are in responding to stimuli and interpreting their world. Unsurprisingly, they don’t want the perfect house, garden, boat, body, job or anything else that adults seem preoccupied with – they simply want to be loved, feel safe and worthwhile.
If you want to protect your unborn baby’s/child’s innocence consider these simple tips:
1. Senses and Sensitivity:
Children have heightened senses, so encourage all of them, especially touch. Be tactile — children love hugs, kisses, being carried, snuggling under blankets and especially enjoy contact in water. Sing together or to each other, dance to music or create music together (upturned bowls and chopsticks make perfect impromptu drums and nothing beats two saucepan lids for symbols). Humor is something everyone enjoys – children love jokes, practical jokes, riddles and situation comedy. Children’s laughter is incredibly infectious so put your entertainer’s hat on and give it a go.
Because children are so sensitive they actually internalize much more than adults realize. Communication skills are essential in protecting your child’s innocence. Communicate with your child as frequently as you can – explain why you are happy, sad, frustrated, excited. Talk about your own childhood memories and the happy times you can remember. Talk about anything with them – what they are working on at school, what is happening in the family, what plans you have for the weekend. Good communication will help reduce childhood misreadings and if you set up an expectation of two-way communication right from the start – children will keep talking to you even when they are in their teens.
Children have a never ending abundance of energy for play. Encourage and participate in creative play like building tents on the living room floor with sheets and chairs, play shopping with a mini play cash register, some empty packages and a basket or shopping bag or allow them to sit on your back while you crawl around on all fours and pretend to be a horse!
Spend time ‘doing things’ together like jigsaws, reading books, playing cards, board games, riding bikes, playing on equipment – all interactive things that create opportunities for communication and connecting. As adults it is important that we join in as often as we can – don’t just sit and watch!
You have probably heard it a million times already but you need to hear it again – try to restrict all forms of technology! It is so easy to use the television as a baby sitter – but most programs and advertisements are quite corrupting of innocence. Delay the inevitable for as long as you can!
3. The Natural World:
The natural world is our soul’s friend. Have as many pets as you can realistically manage and accommodate. They encourage responsibility, play, respect and sensitivity and provide companionship for children when adults are ‘too busy’.
Spend as much time outdoors together as you can - in parks, camping or on farms – the natural world is a child’s friend so let them dig for worms, comb the beach for shells, explore a creek or dig a hole.
4. Routines and Stability:
Children prefer routine and stability. Set up routines that create stability and opportunities to connect that are realistic and manageable (and flexible). For example, an evening routine for a small child might involve eating dinner together, taking a bath followed by a bedtime story and a kiss goodnight.
Set boundaries for children that are reasonable and follow through with consequences if they disobey you.
Eat nutritious food and encourage healthy habits.
Take family holidays together (according to your budget) – preferably with other families - camping worked for us but resorts are fine too – just don’t make use of kids clubs all the time. Holidays enable families to spend quality time playing without the normal day-to-day pressures.
Encourage children to help you around the house – involve them in gardening, making beds, cooking, tidying – they want to be with you and involved in what you are doing. Along the way they will learn valuable skills and learn more about what you enjoy.
5. Institutions and Schooling:
No matter how good the child care center or school is – it can never replace a caring and loving home. Contrary to popular urban myth institutions aren’t as good at ‘socializing’ your child as you are. So if it is at all possible try and work it so that one parent stays home as much and as long as possible. Playgroups and play centers are an appropriate way to introduce your child to a peer group and supervised play with you there for support should the wheels fall off. When it comes time to thinking about school – the best advice I can offer is to home school for as long as you can manage or afford. If you are determined to enroll your child in a school select one on the basis of proximity to home/work and the support, curriculum, and class size policy rather than their competitive results. A school that prioritizes emotional intelligence over intellectual intelligence will preserve innocence long after other schools start having classroom management issues.
It is the small but important things that we parents do and the simple pleasures that preserve a child’s innocence. These things don’t require money or status they require understanding, commitment and effort.
I recently read an article by Australian Biologist Jeremy Griffith who discusses our innocent soul in the most profound way.
This article was written for DangerousLee.Biz by a guest blogger.