In a world where negativity seeps into every corner of our lives and whatever is gross, weird, or shocking is considered hip and appropriate for children, we must find ways to create a home environment that promotes positive thinking and joyful attitudes.
Use visible reminders of the people who love your children and share their lives.
Pictures of family and friends will remind you and your children of the love you share with others. Mementos of special times with friends are much better decorations than designer items; they decorate your home with love and joy.
Try to carve out an area that is specifically for the children.
If you have enough space to dedicate an entire room for a play area or have a private bedroom for each child, that's great. But if not, use the space you have and give up some area to the children. Let them know they are part owners of your home, not unwelcome boarders who take up valuable room. We have never had a playroom, but for a long time I had the living room couch pulled away from the wall to create a hiding place where no grown-up could fit. My older children still talk fondly of "the place behind the couch."
Invite your children's help in decorating your home, and allow them to choose things that they find inspiring.
I'm not suggesting scattering toys and cartoon characters all over the house, but let them discover what they like. If their only choices come from the toy aisle, they will miss opportunities for self-discovery. You don't have to let the kids decide which couch to buy, but you can include them in the process. Let them make small decisions that are temporary and can be changed, like what centerpiece to use on the table, or which picture to hang over the mantel, or which shower curtain to put in the bathroom.
Help your children make their room a special, personal place.
Most adults like to have their rooms be retreats from the world. Children like to have retreats too. Their rooms should definitely be more than storerooms for toys. Many decorator magazines emphasize making a child's room a playground or a miniature amusement park. I think children get enough stimulation and amusement elsewhere, so their rooms should be relaxing and peaceful. Most important is to make it a place they think is special.
There is strong merchandising pressure to surround children with images of TV or comic book characters. But there is more to your child's personality than a love of Pokemon. Help them to dig deeper and express something more personal. Ask them what they think is beautiful; what makes them feel good. When they are upset, what kind of place would they like to run away to? Remember to help your children discover their inner spirit by expressing it in their space.
When my son was planning his little room, he first considered painting it black and red, because he is fascinated with Spiderman. But after more discussion and encouragement, he came up with a plan to make it look like a forest meadow. His strong connection to nature is what he was able to express, and it makes his room uniquely his. It was a fun and inspiring project that he has never regretted. He loves his retreat and he still has his Spiderman toys.
When children share a room, it is still possible to let them express their unique personalities. Help them find a way, and don't worry about breaking decorating rules.
Consider very, very carefully before putting a TV in your child's room.
There are so many reasons why putting a TV in a child's bedroom is such a bad idea that entire books have been written on the subject. I will just emphasize that putting a TV in your child's bedroom is completely counter to most of the goals this book is addressing. TV allows too many opportunities to violate the safe and secure environment you are trying so hard to create. Resolve viewing conflicts in other ways, and keep the TV in the main area of the house where you have control. Don't give in to the whining and pleading: and remember that a TV is not a toy.
Bring nature indoors
The beauty of the natural world is a wonderful way to make your home more peaceful and uplifting. There are many ways to bring nature into your home with pictures, plants, and fabric. Children love to bring rocks, shells, feathers, pinecones, flowers and leaves home to admire and share, but we often don't know what to do with the treasures after we empty our pockets. Try creating a nature display dedicated to these special collections. We have a nature tray in our home that we use to keep our wonderful discoveries together and when it gets full we discard old things to make room for new.
Try to de-clutter and beautify your home.
Ideally, everything you look at as you gaze around your home should be something you enjoy seeing or using. Fill your home with things you think are beautiful, and then try to keep it neat and clean so you can enjoy the surroundings. Teach your children to respect the things you own and to treat them with care. Everything should be comfortable and accessible, but you'll find it so much more enjoyable if it is orderly, too. Provide practical storage for the children to use so that "clean up your room" is not an impossible task.
Teach your children to pay attention to their surroundings and to listen to their feelings.
Although a difficult concept to articulate, I think it is important to teach children that it is possible to feel the atmosphere of a place on an inner level. You can substitute your own word here, but places can give off a kind of aura, energy, vibration, atmosphere, or ... In some places it is very subtle and in others it is pretty obvious, even to less sensitive people. One example is a cathedral. Most people whisper in a cathedral and step softly. They can feel the years of worship that have taken place within the walls and almost hear the choir singing. There are homes that welcome you and surround you with warmth as soon as you step in the front door; there are homes that seem to push you out the door.
I think children need to recognize how a place feels to them, to pay attention to their inner sense and practice using and learning to trust it. Such recognition can be a valuable tool. There may come a time when some thing or some place doesn't "feel" right, and this intuitive sense will guide them in making decisions or choices. It may help keep them from harm, or it may simply help them choose their first apartments.
Environment can be much stronger than the most determined will power. In this modern world where scary news is so prevalent, it's absolutely necessary to create a fortress of beauty, hope, and peace where we can relax and remind ourselves that these things are a reality, too. Consciously choose to surround yourself and your children with more than love; give yourself visible reminders of the power of beauty and harmony in the world. Choose to make peace and beauty a priority at home, and they will give you strength.
Reprinted with permission of the publisher,
Crystal Clarity Publishers. ©2004. www.crystalclarity.com
Scary News: 12 Ways to Raise Joyful Children When the Headlines are Full of Fear
by Lorna Ann Knox.
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About the Author
Lorna Knox, RN, BSN was a nurse and health educator for 15 years specializing in programs for children, family health care, home health, prenatal education and high-risk obstetrics. She has three children and currently works as a teacher in Portland, Oregon. She is also the author of I Came From Joy: Spiritual Affirmations and Activities for Children . Visit her website at www.joyfulchildren.com