She’s Sydney Bristow. She’s Elektra. She’s known to rock a “Yes Day” now and then, and she’ll forever be “13 Going on 30.” And as a mother of three kids, if you ask Jennifer Garner what her most important role is, she’d undoubtedly say, “Mom.”
The busy actress and mom is clear about where her priorities lie—and they are in raising Violet, Seraphina, and Samuel to be kind, grateful humans who live full lives of laughter, joy, and giving back. Between her baby food company, Once Upon a Farm and partnership with Save the Children, and her highly entertaining and relatable “pretend cooking show,” it’s obvious Jennifer Garner is not only the mom we all wish lived next door, but she is also actively working to make the world a better place.
So, when choosing a celeb mom to emulate and looking to for parenting advice, Jennifer Garner tops our list.
10 Parenting Lessons from Jennifer Garner
1. The Power of Kindness
Jennifer Garner shows her kids first-hand what kindness and activism look like. She co-founded Once Upon a Farm, an organic baby food company that partnered with Save the Children to provide meals to children in need across rural America.
View this post on Instagram
In a 2022 interview with Parents, Jennifer Garner says the best way to teach kids to be kind is to model it yourself as their parent and let them see you. “I think the most powerful thing to do is to live it,” she says. “And live it rippling out from your home, whether that’s a next-door neighbor or someone at church, taking them a meal and taking your kids along as you do it. For something bigger, like really being involved in an organization, let your kids see it matter to you. That’s the way to teach them.”
And although her work with Save the Children impacts the world on a broad scale, small acts of kindness matter, too. In that same interview with Parents, Garner tells of a time she pulled her car over to help an older adult cross the street. “It wasn’t a huge thing, but my kids have spoken more about that moment than anything else.”
Garner also says, in a 2016 interview with Today, “You have to have faith that while your kids can seem to be selfish and concerned only about the word ‘mine’ sometimes, overall, they are watching you really carefully, and if you care about other people, they will too.”
2. The Importance of Respectful Co-parenting
It’s no secret that Jennifer Garner’s three kids are growing up in a blended family where co-parenting is essential. After divorcing their father, Ben Affleck, in 2018, the two famous parents had to raise their kids with a constant spotlight on them and do it from separate households. Both Garner and Affleck (as the world knows) have gone on to establish new relationships—one of which included new siblings, too.
In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Garner opened up about how she has handled tabloid rumors about her, Ben and his stints in rehab, and their divorce. “When they were smaller and there were things out there that were shocking, my request to them was always, ‘Let Dad and I talk you through whatever it is.’ I’d tell them, ‘If you see an image on the front of a magazine, I’ll look at it with you and we’ll process all the scary feelings that come up together.’”
Now that they are older, Garner admits she has less control over what they see or hear, but the lines of communication are always open because she set such a strong foundation. And, if you scour the web for anything negative she might say about her ex, you won’t find it because that’s not how she rolls. As their mom, Garner knows the best and most important thing she can do for her kids is to provide stability and love, which means treating her co-parent with respect.
3. How to Parent Teens in the Age of Social Media
Jennifer Garner is smart and gracious enough to know she doesn’t have all the answers and that there is no one-fits-all model to parenting kids today. But she did share in a recent interview on the Today Show that she has not allowed her kids, who are 17, 14, and 11, to have social media. “I just said to my kids, ‘Show me the articles that prove that social media is good for teenagers, and then we’ll have the conversation. Find scientific evidence that matches what I have that says that it’s not good for teenagers, then we’ll chat.”
But she admits this decision, like all parenting decisions, isn’t necessarily easy. Garner said in that interview that her oldest kid, Violet, “is grateful.” But, she adds, “It’s a long haul. I have a couple more to go, so just knock on wood. We’ll see if I really hang in there.”
Because the truth is, we are sailing through uncharted waters. Like many of us, Garner is old enough to have grown up without social media (or even the internet!), which means we really don’t know how to parent in the digital age. All we can do is follow our gut, do what makes sense for our families, and throw up a prayer that it will all shake out okay.
4. The Value in Letting Kids Be Their Authentic Selves
Although she doesn’t include her children on her IG feed (and they don’t have social media of their own), there are plenty of pics out there of Violet, Seraphina, and Samuel because their parents, Jennifer Garner and Ben Affleck, are two of the most famous people on the planet. And any mom of teens or tweens can see when spotting the styles of these three kids that each of them is uniquely their own person—with their parents’ support. Violet and Seraphina have drastically different styles that reflect their own personalities and current stage of teenagehood. As a mom of a tween and teen, I love to see it.
And I can relate because my sixth-grade daughter is full-on in the combat boots, ripped jeans, and hair-band T-shirt phase right now, and she is rocking it. Do I look nostalgically at pics of her at six years old in poofy princess dresses? Of course, but that’s not where or who she is right now, and to be honest, she’s pretty awesome at 12, just like she was at six.
So, seeing a pic of Jennifer Garner and her uniquely different kids laughing and talking as they stroll the streets of L.A. offers encouragement to the rest of us raising big kids. We need to meet them where they are. We need to let them wear what they want (within reason, I know), do funky things with their hair, and go through the 900 phases they will go through. We have to be there for them—through all of it.
5. The Importance of Alone Time with Each Kid
As kids get older, their lives get busier, and they don’t open up as much as they did in kindergarten. Jennifer Garner knows this and therefore knows how essential it is to have quality one-on-one time with her kids.
“I try to make bedtime sacred, to have some alone time with each kid every night, when it is possible,” she told Today Parents in a 2016 interview. “They need you to focus, and they need your attention, and you never know when they are going to drop some nugget of insight into their brains that you have been waiting for,” she said.
That’s the hard part about parenting older kids—finding that balance between not hovering too much and lurking in the background so they know you’re there when they need you. And yes, I can vouch for that truth—teenagers get very chatty at night (just like little kids do!), but now it’s really late, and you’re struggling to keep your eyes open. You do it, though, because those moments are sacred and fleeting.
6. Remembering That You are Their First Role Model
“I try to be the best version of myself and to have faith that they’re watching me as carefully when I do something right as they do when I roll through a stop sign,” Garner told Today Parents.
Whether it is how we treat other human beings, like helping an older adult cross the street, holding the door for the person behind us, or spending our time and energy on feeding kids across America, Jennifer Garner knows her kids are watching her, and that’s a good reminder for all of us.
That doesn’t mean we need to be perfect and never get angry or drop a four-letter word now and then. But we are our children’s first teachers and primary role models, so if we are kind and care about others, they will be too. If we put goodness out into the world, they will be good. If we lift someone else up, they will grow up knowing the world is better when they put their hand out too.
View this post on Instagram
I try to remember that in not only how I speak of others but also how I speak about myself in front of my kids. I want them to hear me say kind things about me, my husband, their grandparents, and everyone in their lives. In this way, I try to model positive self-talk and positivity in how we see the world and treat others.
7. Learning to Parent Each Kid Differently and Growing as a Mom
As a mom of three kids, Jennifer Garner learned that parenting often looks different from child to child with each new addition. First, you, as the mom, change. You learn new tricks and let go of rules you realize you no longer need to follow. With your first child, you revolve your entire life around their nap schedule, but by the third? Ha! That third child naps in the car or the stroller 90% of the time.
Another parenting lesson Garner learned, as shared on the Mom Brain podcast, was this valuable nugget: “It’s not until I had my third that I learned to prepare my child for the path, instead of preparing the path for my child.”
How much do you love that quote? Because that’s the truth of it, isn’t it? With my first child, I did everything I could to ensure the path was smooth and safe for him—no bumps, cracks, or deviations. But that’s not how life works; I knew by my third child. I learned through my years of motherhood that life’s path is never smooth and free of bumps or cracks, and our job is to prepare our children for those hiccups, not ensure there won’t be any.
8. How to Raise Resilient Kids
View this post on Instagram
Famous or not, all children will face hardship at some point, and it is our job as their parents to help them be resilient. For many children worldwide, the pandemic was the first big test of this crucial life skill—and Jennifer Garner’s kids were right there in the mix.
But like gratitude and kindness, Garner says we can’t just tell our kids to be resilient. In that podcast episode on Mom Brain, the mom of three explained that we must model resilience for our kids and point it out when we see them already doing it. “You can’t tell your child to be resilient, that’s so condescending. ‘Be resilient…You be resilient!’ But you can point out to them, ‘You know what’s happening right now? It’s that you are rising to a really tough occasion, and I am seeing something in you that I hope you’re really feeling proud of because this is not easy and you’re doing it.’”
This is almost the exact conversation I had with my kids many times throughout 2020 as weeks and months dragged by with us quarantined at home. Between missing their family and friends, having a “virtual” Christmas, and months of online school, they faced many new challenges no one saw coming. But we did it together, and our family motto, like many families (including Jennifer Garner’s), was “We can do hard things.”
9. How to Listen and Learn from Other Moms
It takes a village to raise children, even when you’re a Hollywood mom. And Jennifer Garner appreciates listening to and gaining knowledge from other mothers. In a 2021 interview with People Magazine, Garner says, “If a mom friend says she’s tried something and it worked, I try it. All the time. And I really do. That’s what a mom network does for each other, right? We really do raise kids in a community, not in a vacuum.”
Particularly in what can often be a toxic social media-driven society, moms can feel inspired by this positive outlook on learning from each other. Will everything another mom does work for you? No. Should we tell other moms how to raise their kids? Absolutely not. But we should share life hacks, secret recipes, and tricks that make our lives easier. If there is some magic way to get your kid to pee in the potty, share it with another potty-training mom! If you find something that works in communicating with your angsty tween, tell it to another exhausted parent in the trenches. And if someone shares a nugget of wisdom with you, consider it, or don’t, but know that we are better as moms and women when we work together and lift one another up.
10. How to Make Memories and Adventures
Garner was stuck home in the house in 2020 while Covid-19 ravaged the planet. But that doesn’t mean she and the kids didn’t have any fun. It sounds like there was plenty of laughter and memories made as her “quarantine fun mom mode” activated.
“[I put] a lot of gusto in when I can and creating adventures when there are none,” Garner told People Magazine. “Like we started shooting silly videos, which they got tired of before I did because I love the end result and having them forever. They started saying, ‘Yeah, Mom. No.’”
Another way she brought joy and excitement into their daily life was at mealtimes. The “Pretend Cooking Show” host told People, “First I was the American hostess and then I was the French waiter. And I kept changing clothes like Mrs. Doubtfire. We did a beach shack and a deli in New York. We did one roller-rink restaurant where the kids were in the car, and I bought the little trays that hooked onto the windows and made burgers. You just want to have a night of fun every now and then.”
I can attest first-hand to the value of making fun “at-home” memories that year. Our kids designed their own board games for family game night, and we tried new recipes we’d never had before, like cooking pizza on the grill. On July 4, 2020, our first Independence Day that we didn’t spend with a huge group, we made it fun at home. One of our kids ran a tie-dying station. Another had a patriotic snack stand, and another created a bunch of yard games for us all. It wasn’t the 4th of July we usually have, but it was one of the most memorable.
Celebrity Moms are Still Relatable
View this post on Instagram
Sure, celebrities may not seem relatable to us regular folks in many ways, but moms are still moms. And Jennifer Garner, despite appearing on movie theater screens time and time again, is still a mother. She’s facing those hard questions like, “Should I let my kids have social media?” She parented through the pandemic like the rest of us. And she’s navigating the often-complicated life of a blended family—something so many of her fans can relate to. And at the end of the day, she just wants her kids to grow up to be kind humans who make the world better. And honestly, I feel like we’re already besties because there is no greater parenting goal than that.