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For the Ages

What lessons would you want your children to remember if this was you last day together?  I lost my mother when my children were just 3 and 4. As my daughters entered their teen years, I realized there was so much I wish I had asked my mother. I was so fortunate to have had such a good role model and that made me realize that I wanted to be the best parent I could be for my children. As parents, we all want our children to harness the positive energy that will lead to healthy and happy lives, but how do we facilitate that? How can we effectively demonstrate the importance of life’s lessons?

I realized that even though my mother was gone physically, her words and actions still guide me. She had already shown me how to navigate through life, and I knew I could do the same for my children. So how can we take the best of our own parents’ advice and make it work with this generation?

Actions: The first thing to remember is that words don’t teach as effectively as actions. The behaviors and ideals we wish to see in our children are things we, as parents, should be modeling ourselves.  For me, this has been the biggest learning experience as a parent. When you see certain attitudes and behaviors do you immediately recognize that your kids are mirroring back your vices? This illustrates just how important our actions are to our children!

Self-Esteem: I think a common thread that weaves its way through all of life’s lessons is self-esteem. This trait can’t be taught, but we can help our children, from the beginning of early childhood, to have a good self-image. As a mother of two daughters, how often have I stood in front of the mirror and criticized something about my appearance? When we do this, what message are we sending to our kids? If parents want our children to feel beautiful just as they are, we need to model that behavior for them. We can teach our children to look in the mirror and find things they appreciate about their features instead of finding fault. The more teens can like their own appearance the easier it will be for them to find things they like about themselves internally.

Self-image: More than ever, teens are bombarded with information and images of what’s in and cool. As they sort through all the images, it’s important for parents to let children know it is OK to be an individual! A solid self-image is the cornerstone for any healthy person, and we all deserve to feel good about ourselves. Teach your children that feeling good about one’s self comes from inside. Though this can be a tough concept for children to grasp, we can help by encouraging them to turn off the ads and stimuli for a time during each day and just think about who they want to be as a person. If they unplug from their computers and TVs, they can take some time to do more creative activities like journaling or drawing which will help them to explore their own style. Teens who are secure in their appearance and personality are much less likely to engage in dangerous behaviors because they have a healthy self-esteem and respect for themselves and their bodies. They are more comfortable being individuals regardless of peer pressure.

Be Yourself: This is an important lesson for all of us. Humans are social creatures and, as such, we want to be accepted by our peers. Our children need to know the benefits of being a unique individual. For example, when they are comfortable being themselves, people that share like interests are more likely to gravitate toward each other. Being around people who reflect our positive attributes will likely bring more happiness and success into their lives. Teach your children to choose friends who uplift them and with whom they can enjoy life.

Find Things You Love to Do: Doing things you love and finding others that share those interests are very important for teens. Finding clubs, hobbies, and groups that impart a sense of belonging and meaning helps to build a sense of community and self-esteem. Being involved in after-school activities or even volunteer work helps  to round out a teen’s life and make them feel like they are contributing to something positive.

Respect Differences: As young people learn to love and respect themselves, they need to recognize that everyone has that same right. Teens will most likely meet people in life that do things differently than they do or that may have differing beliefs, so teach your children that diversity is what makes the world an interesting, vibrant place. Show them how embracing, respecting and accepting differences can enrich their own lives.

Control What You Can: A teenager’s life is full of challenges — hormonal changes, social pressures! It’s so important for children to learn that there is only so much they can control. The most important things they get to control are their thoughts and reactions to situations.

Stop the Negative Self-Talk: Even as adults, we all have a lot of chatter that goes on in our heads. If we take a moment to notice whether our self-talk serves us or defeats us, we can make the conscious effort to choose our thoughts. We really do become what we think. Why not practice thinking  good thoughts that uplift us?!

What Doesn’t Kill You, Makes You Stronger: The most profound growth in anyone’s life comes during a period of perceived struggle. Everything we experience in life serves the purpose of clarifying what we want from our own life. So when we’re experiencing a difficult moment, as we work through it, we are growing and learning. I always remind my children to look back at times past and moments that seemed so traumatic. As they recall them, they also remember that they got through those times. They worked through those issues and they came out on the other side; wiser and stronger! My daughters navigate through their lives easier by realizing that they are not alone. They are not the first people to be feeling or experiencing hardship, and they won’t be the last. We need to show our children that they have all the tools they need to get through anything that life offers. Every person experiences a nice mixture of good times and not so good times. That is the nature of life.

Keep a Positive Attitude: As our children surf life’s waves, we can help them to try to look for the positive. In any situation, there are positive aspects and not so positive moments. Teach your children to train their focus. They get to decide where they put their attention. Look for the bright side in any circumstance, to the best of your ability, and you can do anything. Our children will be faced with many challenges throughout their lives, but if they can get into the habit of focusing on the brightest side of any circumstance , they can improve the quality of their lives. The more they practice the easier it gets, and the easier it gets the more at peace they will become.

Simplicity in Your Present Moment: Which brings me to my final point, look around you and appreciate all the simple, good things in your lives right now. We are so blessed and the more we can look around us and recognize how lucky we are, the more goodness we allow into our lives. We’re never too young or old to learn that lesson.

So, as we grow as parents, don’t let moments pass you by that can serve as teaching moments for you and your children. Start now by making positive changes in your own lives so that you can be a positive role model for your children. Listen to the advice of trusted elders. Even though times have changed, people are still people. The basic issues our teens face today are quite similar feeling-wise to those we faced and our parents faced. Just as I hear my mother’s words as plainly as if she were alive and right beside me, someday your children will hear yours as well. Make the most of your time together!

Genie Lee Perron is the author of Things I Wish My Mother Had Said…(or maybe she did). Please visit or for more information.

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