12 Things Parents Should Do to Raise Emotionally Healthy Children
Being a parent is no simple task; it often comes with its fair share of challenges. Navigating the journey requires perseverance and strategic thinking, as there is no one-size-fits-all manual to rely on. Sometimes, we encounter behaviors from our children that puzzle us, and our attempts to correct them can sometimes backfire, leading to frustration and exhaustion for both parents and children.
1. Understand the downside of their strengths
Each child is unique, possessing a distinct set of skills and qualities. These attributes come with both advantages and disadvantages. Take the example of being a perfectionist—while it can be beneficial in certain tasks, it may pose challenges in social interactions. The strengths of a child’s skill set often shine through in specific activities, such as excelling academically but struggling with focus at home.
As parents, it’s crucial to differentiate between a child’s behavior in a particular moment and their inherent nature. We should address undesirable behaviors while affirming that their personality is not flawed. By doing so, we protect children from potential psychological harm both now and in the future. It’s essential to balance guiding their behavior and nurturing their self-worth.
2. Allow them to express their negative feelings
Children, unlike adults, cannot conceal or suppress their emotions, partly due to their ongoing development of self-control skills. Additionally, they may struggle to articulate their feelings through words. That’s why we must assist them in finding the appropriate language to express their emotions. One effective approach is directly asking them about their experiences and allowing them the necessary space to open up. Furthermore, using their favorite TV shows or movies as a reference can help bridge the gap between their emotions and the real world.
3. Watch your own emotions
Children can absorb and reflect the attitudes, emotions, and mindsets of their parents or other influential figures in their lives. When adults consistently experience stress, their children will likely mirror that mood. This phenomenon, known as emotional contagion, extends beyond mere imitation and involves the transmission of emotions as if they were tangible energies circulating in a room, as explained by neuroscience. Therefore, creating a serene environment is crucial, allowing children to soak up positive emotions and fostering their emotional well-being.
4. Set the right expectations
When a parent expresses their feelings by saying, “I’m disappointed in you,” it may have a similar impact on a child as saying, “You let me down.” This can make them feel they have failed to meet their parent’s expectations. Parents need to convey their emotions about their child’s actions in a different way, helping them understand the actual effect their choices have. Parents can share how their child’s behavior makes them feel, emphasizing their care and concern. Parents must emphasize their love and support for their child while discussing these matters, creating an environment where both parties can learn and grow together.
5. Be aware of overstimulation
Encouraging our children to participate in activities that promote their growth and development is beneficial. However, it’s important to remember the adage, “Too much of a good thing.” Overloading their schedules can lead to overstimulation, which occurs when children are exposed to excessive physical activity, intense experiences, and loud noises, among other things. The reactions to overstimulation can vary based on the child’s age. It is recommended to balance engaging activities and moments of tranquility to ensure a sense of safety and calmness.
6. Support their desire to play
Children often have abundant energy and a strong inclination to engage in play. It is important to recognize that play is a crucial aspect of their growth as it fosters the development of various skills and facilitates learning. However, adults may sometimes struggle to understand a child’s invitation to play, mistakenly perceiving it as misbehavior when the child desires to express their emotions and connect with others. Embracing these play opportunities can strengthen the bond between adults and children and create a positive emotional and social development environment.
7. Try to control any impulsive reaction you might have
Parents often find themselves frustrated when their children immediately engage in the exact behavior they were just told not to do. However, it’s important to understand that children haven’t fully developed their ability to control their impulses and follow the rules. The skill of self-control takes time to create and typically doesn’t fully mature until the teenage years.
Maintaining a calm and composed demeanor is crucial when faced with such situations. This allows you to take a moment to gather your thoughts and respond in a way that is most beneficial for the child while also aligning with your intentions as a parent. By approaching these moments with patience and understanding, you can support your child’s growth and help them navigate learning to regulate their impulses.
8. Understand their need to move and be active
As parents, it can be frustrating when we expect children to simply relax and stay still, but they seem to be in constant motion. Children naturally have abundant energy and a strong urge to be active. Rather than constantly trying to correct their behavior, it can be more beneficial to help them channel that energy into activities that provide balance. Encouraging them to engage in physical activities such as playing in the park, riding a bike, playing soccer, or participating in any sport of their interest can help them expend their energy positively and constructively. We can support their physical and emotional well-being by providing outlets for their dynamic nature.
9. Set boundaries effectively
Children often find it confusing when boundaries seem inconsistent, such as receiving a reward one day for a particular action and not receiving it the next day despite repeating the same behavior. It is crucial to be consistent in the rules we establish for children, whether rewarding them or setting limits. Having clear and consistent rules helps children understand expectations and avoid frustration that can have unintended consequences. By maintaining consistent boundaries, we provide stability and promote a sense of fairness and understanding in children’s lives.
10. Encourage their autonomy
Like many adults, children naturally desire autonomy and a sense of ownership over their decisions. It’s common to observe children rebelling against their parents’ attempts to assist them. Although this may seem perplexing to parents, it’s important to understand their perspective. When a child expresses a desire to make their bed independently, it is beneficial to let them do so. By allowing them to follow through with their intentions, we empower them to realize their capabilities and foster greater autonomy.
11. Praise the specific things related to your kid’s accomplishments
In parenting, it’s important to be mindful of how we praise our children. While phrases like “I’m so proud of you!” or “Great job!” may seem innocent, they can inadvertently diminish the value of genuine accomplishments. When we excessively praise our children for routine tasks or minor achievements, praise can lose its significance.
Instead, it’s beneficial to focus on specific aspects of their accomplishments and encourage them to reflect on their work. By highlighting the specific things your child did well, you empower them to be self-critical and develop a sense of pride in their own abilities. For example, instead of generic praise, you can say, “You must be so proud of your work!” or “You completed that puzzle so quickly!” This way, you acknowledge their effort and specific achievements, fostering a sense of self-awareness and genuine satisfaction.
12. Be able to read their emotions in special conditions
Adults sometimes experience mood swings due to factors like tiredness, lack of sleep, stress, or hunger. Similarly, children also go through these mood fluctuations. Still, the key difference is that their ability to control their emotions in such situations is not as developed as that of adults. Therefore, we must observe and respond effectively to their mood swings, as children may struggle to communicate what they are experiencing.
There are various approaches to help children feel comfortable in sharing their feelings or experiences from their day. Creating a calm environment is a good starting point, enabling you to ask them about their emotions directly. It is crucial to understand what they are going through, and one effective way is by sharing a personal anecdote that relates to their situation. This can establish an emotional and empathetic connection, improving communication and support.
Raising children can be a challenging journey filled with ups and downs. While we strive to avoid mistakes and provide the best for our little ones, it’s important to remember that parenting is also a remarkable experience filled with love and growth.