Raising Emotionally Healthy Children
When it comes to your children, you often stress over every cough and sneeze. You worry about immunizations and sleep schedules. You take great care to keep your babies as happy and healthy as you can. But there’s another side to your children’s health you may not think about — their mental and emotional health.
But even before they can talk, children are able to understand a great deal about the world around them. And how your children react to the world is partially based on what they learn from you. The best way to ensure that your child develops into an emotionally healthy individual is to practice healthy emotional behaviors even before you and your child are able to have a conversation. Here are some ways to foster healthy emotional development in your child:
- Spend time together without distractions. While you may consider yourself to be an excellent multitasker, splitting your attention between your children and other tasks is often not the best decision. Children can tell when you’re completely present and when you are not. Instead of trying to catch up on emails on your phone while playing with your child, spend quality time doing each separately. Explain to your child that you are going to play together and then you’ll need to spend a few minutes on another task. Giving your child your full, undivided attention is more valuable than giving him or her your partial attention.
- Create reasonable and predictable rules. It’s important for children to see that you have consistent expectations for behavior. But sometimes it can be hard not to laugh at the crazy antics our children get into. Yet, laughing at your child for doing something one day and scolding them for it the next can be confusing for your child. Do your best to keep expectations the same from day to day so your child knows what behavior is acceptable and what isn’t.
- Acknowledge and validate your child’s feelings. Children don’t always react in the most rational way to situations. Learning that the dog can’t sit at the table for dinner may send a tired toddler into a full-fledged meltdown. But it’s important to not simply dismiss your child’s feelings, even if they seem unreasonable. Start by acknowledging your child’s feelings and asking why he or she is upset or angry. Show that you are listening and taking them seriously so they know their feelings are valued.
- Focus on praising positive behaviors. As a busy mom, there are times when your attention may be diverted from your child — until they do something “naughty” to get your attention. Of course, we need to correct behaviors that are unacceptable, but it’s important to “catch them being good” to encourage suitable behavior. Children who aren’t receiving the attention they desire may act out as a way to get your attention, even if it’s negative. By giving sufficient praise and encouragement, your children will want to continue those same positive behaviors.
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