Raising Emotionally Healthy Children
My parents never understood the importance of raising emotionally healthy children. It was never a priority. Today, many of our children are influenced by television, social media, and their classmates, and it seems that as the years go by, the concept of bullying and hurting children come about earlier than anticipated. The things that my child knows at the tender age of 6, I didn’t know until much later in life because our exposure wasn’t the same. There was a difference because, in my day, there was no social media. I had to rely on the local news to keep me informed.
As a parent, how do you handle dealing with children who are now struggling with things we didn’t struggle with until later in life? I was able to find pointers that will help us raise emotionally stable children.
Remind your children how much you love them and how important they are to you. But don’t just say it. Children need to be able to see it too. Remember actions speak louder than words. Take an interest in the things that bring them joy. So if your daughter loves watching basketball, take her to a game. If your son loves baking, set aside time to bake with him regularly.
Never lie to your children. We may think they aren’t emotionally ready, or old enough to handle the truth, but our kids are a lot smarter than they let on. Break it down to them in a way that they’ll understand. They’ll appreciate honesty over anything. If they believe that you lied to them, there is a high probability that your relationship will be fractured. Not because they live under your roof, means they have to trust you. I realized that I had to open up to my son when he wouldn’t stop asking how he came out of my stomach. Initially, the thought of having that conversation was uncomfortable. He’s still so young and I thought he wasn’t ready. One day I finally decided to tell him how he came out, and his response was, “Your Vagina?!”, followed by a few giggles and he never asked the question again. But now he feels secure in knowing that he can come to me about anything and I’ll be honest.
3. Never Scold Your Child because they Expressed Emotions that You’re Not Comfortable With
They are virtually babies until they hit 18. That gives you as a parent more than enough time to really get to know our child. They go through various changes, and as such, so do their emotions. Think about it. They transition to new schools every few years and have to learn the ins and outs of said new school, including but not limited to the teachers and students that weren’t in their old schools. They have to adjust to schedules, taking tests more regularly and this is usually ten times worse for students who have to move around often, like my fiance who was a military kid. Let’s also factor in the kids that have learning disabilities, or who struggle in poverty, or those who watch turmoil and dysfunction unravel in their homes.
When a kid lashes out, it is usually because they don’t know how to express what they are truly feeling. Instead, try to get to the bottom of the matter. Teach them to use their words, and for the younger kids, have them point to pictures (like the one below) that describe how they feel, and have them explain what has caused them to feel that way. Remember, the earlier you start this is the easier it may be. I have seen first hand how difficult it is to start raising a child at 16 years old and the damaging impact it leaves behind. If all else fails, or you need more help, seek it from a professional. It’s ok. It’s ignorant to judge parents who need help. No one has it all figured out. Check out my other post, The Taboo Behind Therapy, to get over some of those fears.
There have been times that I didn’t allow my son to make decisions on his own because I was impatient. For example, I couldn’t wait for him to finish tying his shoelaces himself, so I did it. I couldn’t wait for him to figure out the answer for his homework question, so I did it. I couldn’t wait for him to eat the last bite of food, so I fed it to him. All this did not help him at all. Instead, he became reliant on my assistance with everything. He figured if he couldn’t do it, I’d do it for him. I had to allow him to handle these problems in his own way. I even came up with a reward and punishment alternative to keep him engaged.
5. Don’t Underestimate Their Knowledge
When my son was a year and a half, I noticed something in him that blew my mind. He got up one morning and started reading – out of the blue! I never taught him how to read and neither did his dad. I reached out to his caregivers at his daycare and it wasn’t them either! In fact, they thought I was doing something special and wanted to know so they could share it with the other children at the daycare. But as time went on, I noticed something else. My son had a photographic memory. If I had he subtitles on the television on, he’d follow along and use those words he’d see on TV. Those started with one-syllable words and worked its way up to three. My son is in Kindergarten and reads at a 4th-grade level, all because of subtitles.
I’ve been fortunate to have friends and family members who have been around the block a time or two before, in regards to raising kids, and one common trait that they have all expressed at one time or another is that kids are sponges. They absorb whats around them. 9 out of 10 you’ll see the results you want in your children, if you do it yourself.
Being a parent by itself is difficult, many of us are first time parents who have no clue what we’re doing. I’ve had to learn a lot through trial and error. It will not be any different for you.
Pay attention to the signs, promote good behaviors and habits, and watch your kids flourish.