News Herald – Juliann Talkington
Over the past fifty years what Americans believe makes a child well-adjusted has changed. Today many parents think a youngster is well-balanced if he/she interacts easily with his/her peers. Even though this type of social interaction is important, it is only part of what is necessary for a child to be happy, secure, and successful.
Children need to know they are loved and must have daily attention and socialization. Even though our society prioritizes peer socialization, it is equally important for kids to learn how to interact with people who are older and younger, of different socio-economic backgrounds, and from other cultures. It is also important that our children have open dialog with people who have different political viewpoints, interests, and careers.
Providing broad socialization does not have to be an expensive or time consuming process. Every community has people with diverse talents, passions, and interests and almost all areas have people from different cultures and of different ages. Rather than seeking safety in people who are similar, parents can reach out to those who are distinctive and include them in family events and social gatherings. This step allows their children to experience uncommon worldviews and cultural perspectives and have exposure to new career options, hobbies, and sports.
Sometimes we forget that emotional development is tied to physical well-being. To make matters more challenging, our lives are so busy that we overlook these physical necessities. Well-adjusted children need adequate sleep and exercise and need to eat well-balanced diets that include ample unrefined and minimally processed fruits, vegetables, meats, legumes, and grains. There are many websites that include recipes for quick, healthy options and fast food restaurants that provide fresh, wholesome choices.
We have less experience monitoring how our children are progressing beyond peer to peer socialization. As a result, it will likely take a conscious effort to make sure development is on schedule. Observation is often an effective tool. Do our kids actively engage adults in meaningful dialog in a broad range of subjects? How do they respond when someone broaches a topic which is new to them? Are they able to diplomatically disagree? Do they take the opinions of adults at face value or are they able to listen and form their own opinions? Have they developed new sports, art, or community interests?
Once a parent starts monitoring a broader range of emotional and physical components, they will have a good idea if their child is well-adjusted.