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Be a protector
Berny Unruh

Life is challenging for children and for families. As a parent I worried about how I would protect my children from themselves and from others. While there is not a step-by-step guide for raising resilient kids, I often tell parents they just have to do the best job they can.

As I shared in my prior three articles, the very first thing to do is to build a relationship with your children. Spend time with them and express your affection often. Demonstrate your love for your children by setting boundaries and limits. There should be no question that they must wear their seat belts and they cannot cross the street alone. When they become teens, parents must set the limits for what hours the phone can be used and that the phone will be charged overnight in the parent’s room. Parents must be good role models and follow the law. Children will learn that they too must follow the law.  

In the book “The Good Teen,” Richard Lerner discusses the 5 “C’s” of positive development for teens. Connection was the characteristic that made so much sense to me. Being involved in your child’s life is vitally important. Know what they are doing and who their friends are. Serve as a community volunteer as a family. Working together as a family contributes to family bonding. Get involved in your community so your children know the neighbors and those in community organizations. In turn, those adults will know your kids. As parents we do have to monitor what our children are doing. It is also helpful if everyone at school, at church and those in other organizations will help keep an eye out for your kids too. 

Kids need guidance. They also need to experience life to learn some things on their own. We cannot protect our children from all the disappointments in life. We can teach them to think through their actions and help them through the consequences of their actions, especially if things don’t turn out on the positive end. When your child’s behavior requires discipline, make sure the punishment is appropriate for the misbehavior. 

Be an advocate for your child. I did not go to a coach or a teacher and question the rules and guidelines they had set. However, if my child asked me to go with them to speak to a teacher, I joined them and listened in on the conversation. There is a fine line between monitoring your children’s activities and taking over and making decisions for them. 

The key to raising emotionally healthy children is to make sure that they are first and foremost in your life and that they know that they are. It may require that you as a parent lay down your phone. It saddens me to see adults more interested in their phone than they are in their children. Never give up on your kids or on their happiness. Be present and be there for them.  

Berny Unruh is the Family and Community Wellness Agent for the Cottonwood Extension District.  She can be reached at 785-628-9430 or at