We may not talk about it (at least as much as we probably should), but one of the indications of great parenting is when our children grow up and supersede us. They get better educations and jobs. They become more financially stable. They are happier and more peaceful (sooner than a lot of us came to be, anyway).
They make better choices when it comes to their relationships and interactions with others.
That last one? It can be accredited, in large part, to being an emotionally healthy individual. That’s not something that people are born being; they have to be raised that way. If you’re wondering about some of the things that you can do to provide your child with the tools and skills to become this kind of individual, here are five that you can teach your child…and perhaps, brush up on a bit yourself along the way.
5 Tips for Raising Emotionally Healthy Children
Let their voice be heard. There are a lot of people who do some pretty self-debilitating things as an adult, in large part, because they were not listened to as children. When we ignore a child, when we cut them off while they’re talking, when we raise our voices, these are all sending out messages that we don’t care as much about what they have to say as we probably should. Make sure to let your children speak and complete their thoughts before responding (and definitely before reacting).
Encourage them to express their feelings. If you ask a lot of men why they don’t share their emotions now, they may tell you because they were told to suppress them as little boys. Crying, talking about feelings, saying when you’re hurt, scared or even frustrated are all healthy ways of dealing with our emotions—whether male or female. There is definitely a time and a place to do it, and self-control is something that emotional release should be tempered with, but if a person is given the space to express how they feel, the sooner (and easier) they will be able to process those emotions and move forward. That’s always a good thing.
Validate. A huge misconception in communication is that if you validate someone’s feelings or opinions, then that means you agree with them. That resolve couldn’t be further from the truth. What validation actually does is say, through both words and actions, that you respect the person enough as an individual to hear what they’re saying, that you care about it and that you’re willing to work to see where a common ground (a compromise) can be reached. In the case of little children, sometimes there can’t be a compromise made. If bedtime is at 7 in your home, that might be non-negotiable. However, it’s still a good idea to say, “I know you want to stay up a bit later tonight, but your bedtime is 7. You can watch that cartoon later.” It’s a great way of letting them know that their perspective was duly noted enough to be addressed.
Get to know their love language. Best-selling author Gary Chapman has the belief that all of us need love, but we have different ways of how we desire for it to be shown: words of affirmation, physical touch, quality time, gifts and acts of service. His book, The Five Love Languages, has editions specifically for couples, singles, and even children. It’s a worthwhile investment to see how your child likes love to be shown to them and it’s a wonderful skill for them to learn early on when it comes to how the people around them like love to be expressed to them as well.
Apologize. You probably already know is that an apology is a powerful way to help someone emotionally. When we’ve done something wrong to someone or even if we’ve inadvertently hurt their feelings and we don’t address it or even find ways to defend it, we model to them the danger that comes with not taking ownership for offenses or mistakes that have been made. If you have done something to your child that was wrong or that hurt their feelings, or if they witnessed you do that to someone else, be parent enough to make an apology. A person that’s humble enough to say “I’m sorry” is an individual of great character, integrity, and strength. As both children and as adults.