Dear New Mum and Dad
My name is Benji Bennett and although you don’t know me I hope you don’t mind me treating this article as a very personal open letter to you. It is hope that this letter will deliver a special message and plant a little seed in your heart that will grow and blossom into something beautiful for you and your family.
Before I share my message and a simple recipe to raising happy children It is important firstly to share my story so you can understand the inspiration behind this letter and why you are reading it.
Life has blessed me with it’s most precious gift, 4 wonderful children Adam, Harry, Robbie and Molly. I am also incredibly lucky to be married to Jackie, a most extraordinary woman who has helped me to realize that, love laughter and fun in the family, is the most powerful, dependable, and enduring force that protects a family th from obliteration when faced with adversity, fear, pain and loss.
However, acquiring this feeling of gratitude and contentment has been hard fought and seemed an impossible dream 10 years ago. It was then that our world imploded on itself when Adam, our 4 year old beautiful golden-haired, brown eyed, giddy giggler was lost to us within hours of taking ill with an undiagnosed brain tumor. As dawn approached on a balmy August morning peace tranquility transcended the intensive care unit where Adam lay still. Jackie and I lay beside him cherishing what we knew to be our final moments with our beautiful boy. Just as Adam had arrived into the world with a ray of morning sunshine kissing his newborn head so too had he left us at dawn in loving silence surrounded by adoring parents, aunts, uncles and grandparents. In a puff Adam was gone to his cloud in the sky leaving behind an important message for us al to spend as much time as we can with our children when they are young.
Shock, disbelief and denial were followed by desperate attempts to wake myself up from a relentless and enduring painful dream from which there was no escape. But as each day passed my passion to encourage parents to spend 10 minutes reading with their children at the end of the day and tell them they are loved before they go to sleep began to help me to make sense as to why Adam had to go. When Adam came to the world and chose me as his dad, he took a look around and realized the only way he could bring happiness to children and families around the world was from his little cloud. There he could inspire something truly special, guide me in my actions and fill me with enough love to share the world over. An emotive sentiment that always makes me smile and feel both inspired and grateful he entrusted me to help him with his important work.
Adam’s message is one of love, hugs and kisses in the family and for me is the secret sauce of parenting and a happy family. Every child is different yet we are all receptive to the same endless advice and commentary on issues that affect their mental, physical and emotional wellbeing and development.
How can we filter all this information and advice to make it relevant to the specific needs of our very unique children? How do we avoid the anxiety triggered every time we hear news stories or research findings about the effects “everything” is having on our children? How can we keep up to date and be prepared to guide and help and our children cope with the growing list of issues they face as they struggle to “Fit In” and make it in an increasingly complex and often hostile world.
The answer is we can’t.
As parents we all come from a differnet place. We each had our own different parents growing up, different childhoods, different opportunities, differnet exeriences and events in our lives that shape who we are how we deal with life and how we parent. Some of us struggle with our past, some of us benefit from growing up in stable loving environment. Some of us have natural parenting instincts or strong powers of perception. So how can we all deal with everything that is thrown at us and keep up when we simply don’t have all the tools and skills necessary to be the “Perfect Parent”. Well my experience has thought me that there is no perfect parent. There is no perfect blueprint or perfect instruction manual to raise the perfect happy child. There is just too much psychology, emotion and a million other variables that makes parenting a difficult and almost impossible job to get it 100% right 100% of the time.
So, where does that leave us?
There is no clear cut right and wrong to raising children with different needs, wants and abilities. We try to figure it all out by picking up relevant tips that address our worries of the day in a jungle of media noise and social networks. But despite all the noise, differences in opinions and individual characteristics of children there is one constant approach that will wrap a warm happy blanket around your whole family and give you a good chance of getting it at least a little bit right.
No matter how different a child is or how different parents are, expressions of Love, shared reading and interactions with nature keep recurring as the key ingredients to raising a happy well adjusted child.
You see, when you read to them from a young age you are creating an unbreakable bond with them. You are creating and nurturing physical, emotional and verbal channels of communication with them so you can understand each other better as they grow.
When you tell them you love them every day you will teach them to both love and be loved. You will teach them empathy and help them display emotion and affection. From love comes respect for both you as their parent, for themselves and people around them.
When you encourage them to engage with nature you will inspire them to use nature as a source of strength, inspiration and spiritual guidance and enlightenment. You will help them discover a safe quiet place where they can go and cast away their worries, ease their anxieties and reboot their systems.
But just like any recipe the key ingredients will need a little seasoning to suit your taste. For me I have always added respect, manners, gratefulness and the word “No” into the pot and garnished our family dish with Giggles, Hugs, Kisses and the constant pursuit of a creating magical memories for us all to share. Through endless weekend family excursions we have created many magical family moments that will be remembered by our children forever.
But here is the most beautiful part of it all. When our children become parents we will have provided them with the tools they need to raise happy children in the future using the very same recipe you have passed on to them.
This is how we protect the future of our grandchildren and future generations. This is how we inspire a better happier environment for our children’s children. This is how we will be remembered and leave our mark on the world.
This is Adam’s message and it is this philosophy in action that has inspired my books and has helped me, and many of other families deal with the daily challenges of raising children.
“If you read to your children form the moment they are born, tell them you love them and take them for a walk as often as you can your doing something right. The rest we just have to figure out as we go.”