“By making eye-contact, getting down to your child’s level, offering a touch,
or using a tone of your voice that conveys a desire to genuinely connect,
you disarm yourself.
You make it possible to reach your child more deeply
and truly move forward together.”
In addition to many other roles in life, I have the good fortune of being the parent of two wonderful and independent young women, and the grandmother (Ma’maere) of three awesome granddaughters. Sometimes because of, and often in spite of my innate parenting skills, they are each a blessing to my life. Of course, it wasn’t always rosy, but we have come to a good place. We have each prospered, because I too grew as we traveled our convoluted journey to adulthood. The goal of parenting is to raise human beings who can make it through life on their own terms, in their own way, and not “mini-mes.”
We all want our children to be well-balanced and emotionally healthy. Why? Because emotionally healthy children do better in school, find more success as adults, and lead much happier lives. They can be happy and fulfilled as they grow up.
Strategies to help increase your children’s emotional wellbeing:
1. Be open with your children about your feelings.
- The world is not always a positive place, and we each have our own struggles.
- It helps our children better understand our feelings if they can see the reality of the world.
- Children tend copy their parents. So, they will mimic our emotions.
- As an emotionally healthy adult, we have the opportunity to show our children that it is quite normal to have both positive and negative feelings.
- If we are open about them, they will be able to learn from us.
- Sometimes we are tempted to protect our children from our real emotions. We cannot help them this way, and we miss out on teachable moments.
- Plus, they can see straight through our masks. This leads to confusion.
2. Stop judging feelings.
- Sometimes, we adults criticize others and their feelings.
- Our children are always watching, so they learn to be judgmental about others as well.
- When we judge and criticize the emotions of others, we show our children that it is normal to make fun of or mock other people.
- They can suffer emotional damage because they learn to criticize others or become uncomfortable showing their own feelings for fear of judgement.
- It is also important to avoid labeling feelings as good or bad.
- Sometimes we will be happy, and sometimes we will be sad, but both are normal.
- Children should not feel ashamed of their feelings.
3. Stop telling your children how to feel.
- When we try to control a child’s emotions, it leads both of us down a dangerous path.
- We cannot control every aspect of our own lives. So, it is ludicrous to believe that we can control every aspect of our children’s lives.
- If we try to tell children how to feel, they become unsure of how to show their true emotions.
- They learn that they cannot be honest about their feelings. So, they learn to hide them.
- When we tell our children they have to be happy, we prevent them from figuring out why they do not feel this way.
- Many parents feel that their children are simply an extension of their personalities and expect them to act and feel the same way they do.
- Each child is a unique individual. We cannot expect them to feel the same way as we do about everything.
4. Resolve your own emotional wounds.
- It is difficult to teach children how to deal with their feelings when we are struggling with your own.
- Children naturally copy their parents, so they may pick up on a few of our traumas.
- We must take special care to prevent the emotional wounds from our past or present from carrying over to our children.
5. Ask questions!
- Children benefit from opportunities to discuss their emotions. My youngest granddaughter and I fall into some pretty deep discussions about feelings.
- Ask questions and find out how they feel, rather than assuming what they are feeling and thinking.
- When we ask about their feelings, our children will learn to articulate them. They will learn to express their thoughts and emotions.
Emotionally healthy children grow up to be successful and happier adults.
They will also be able to use these skills as they get older and face more challenges.
The ability to be emotionally available to others, and knowledgeable is a powerful tool.
Our children can reap great advantages from learning about their feelings.