As it is said, there are two long-lasting gifts we can give our children: Roots and Wings. These represent the two main psychological needs of humans. So, how can we encourage our children to develop roots that provide safety and security, while also strengthening their wings that help them fly away and explore?
Welcome to my column, which has an overarching theme of parenting as an expat and child development in a multicultural setting. Each month, I will cover a different topic related to this theme in depth on Eindhoven News. In this first article, we will explore the two main psychological needs of human beings that we, as parents, need to facilitate our children to develop: Roots, which represent emotional attachment and Wings, which represent independence. However, how can someone have roots to stay attached to the ground as well as have wings to fly away? Let’s find out!
Roots characterize secure attachment children form with their parents through unconditional love and affection. Parents need to meet their children’s needs consistently and regularly in an environment of trust and love. This safe, trustworthy, and loving home environment helps the kids thrive in their emotional, cognitive, and social development.
Children who have a secure attachment with their parents show many positives traits such as better social skills, higher self-esteem and ability to handle emotional challenges more effectively. These children also grow up to do better as adults in their social and romantic relationships as well as in their professional careers.
Based on child development research findings, parents need to do following for their children to form a secure attachment, to develop a sense of safety and belonging, and to feel emotionally connected to their family, community, and culture:
- Show unconditional love no matter how your children behave, even when you don’t like or agree with their behaviour. Never use your love to discipline your child. Do not withdraw your love from your child to teach them a lesson; this is not an effective discipline strategy.
- Consistently respond to your children’s requests and needs on time every time. This does not mean agreeing with all the requests but rather responding with a proper explanation; even if it is a ‘No’.
- Display affection. In some cultures, there is a notion that display of “too much love” will spoil the children. Don’t be afraid of showing love to your children by clear signs such as hugging, kissing, openly saying ‘I love you’, playing together etc.
- Respect your children’s ideas. Acknowledge that they have feelings and opinions of their own and respect them, even when you do not agree.
- Have expectations from your children that are achievable based on their age, personality, conditions etc.
- As an expat, pay extra attention to teach your children about your cultural origins such as language, food, rituals, music etc.
Roots form the secure base on which children can grow their wings that allow them to explore their environment. Children who are securely attached to their parents are more willing to try new things because they are well aware of the unconditional love and acceptance of their parents.
Wings signify freedom, exploration, and autonomy of making your own decisions. Around the age of two, children realize that they are separate entities with their own voice, ideas and wishes and that there is a whole new world beyond the parental ‘safe zone’. The ultimate goal of parents should be to raise their children to become self-sufficient and confident adults.
Parents are advised to do the following so their children become successful, self-confident and independent adults who can make their own decisions, show effort to reach their full potential, and take responsibility for their actions:
- Support your children’s autonomy. Let your child decide what to wear, which playground to go, what to eat for lunch and similar day-to-day tasks.
- Include your children’s opinions in relevant family decisions. From early ages on, not only acknowledge but also encourage them to have their own ideas and viewpoints.
- Give constructive criticism to your children by understanding the reasoning behind their choices and behaviours.
- Encourage your children to try out new things and teach them that mistakes are opportunities to learn. Give them enough time and space to find solutions on their own. Rather than solving a problem for them, guide them towards a solution.
- Give your children certain responsibilities by taking into account their age, skills, and likes.
- As an expat, teach your children about the host culture and facilitate their integration.
When children grow strong roots and wings, they feel emotionally connected to a place/person/family/culture as well as become confident to explore the world and form new relationships. This is the best gift you can give to your children so they live a happy and fulfilled life.
In the upcoming articles, we will discuss how cultural background of mothers and fathers shape their parenting beliefs and behaviors, how the encouragement of roots and wings vary across cultures, and the do’s and don’ts of parenting as an expat.
*Dr. Elif Durgel is a psychologist who specializes in expat parenting and child development in multicultural contexts. She has recently moved to Eindhoven and established Roots and Wings Parent Academy that offers parenting trainings. Through Eindhoven News she will be sharing her knowledge and experience. If there is any topic or question you would like to see covered in the coming articles, please get in touch with me. https://www.facebook.com/rootsandwingsparent/