Written by: Rachael Berringer, LAC
With the increase in screen time, social media pressures, school violence, and hyper-focus on academic achievement among children today, it is important now more than ever that we support our children’s social and emotional wellbeing at home. What better time to start than now, with sunshine, grass underneath our feet, and fresh air! While academic achievement plays an important role in helping our children live successful, fulfilling lives, helping them build emotional intelligence to better understand themselves, navigate social interactions and build meaningful relationships is key. Building social and emotional competence can seem complex, but here a few simple ways to help raise emotionally healthy children:
Play allows a child to navigate strong emotions and situations in a safe setting. Play is essential to development and promotes healthy social and emotional growth. Students have less opportunities to play at school and lack of play affects emotional development, leading to issues with attention and self control. Play is the language of a child. Playing with your child can better help you enter their world and understand their thoughts and emotions on a deeper level. With our hurried lifestyles, play can seem unrealistic and overwhelming for parents, however, even twenty minutes per day of uninterrupted play can promote connection and emotional regulation. Play provides our children with important experiences to help them learn about their emotions, problem solve and develop the skills necessary to become confident and competent adults.
Emotions All Day Long
It’s important that children learn that all emotions are okay ! It’s crucial that we validate when our children are feeling all different emotions. The younger that we teach our children about their emotions and build their emotional vocabulary, the less overwhelming they will become as our children get older. Understanding and accepting our emotions is foundational to being able to manage them. It’s important to demonstrate a curiosity for our children’s feelings so we are better able to help reframe their behavior in the moment.
Reflect On Your Experiences, Emotionally
Regulating our own emotions in order to co-regulate with our children is important! Its unrealistic to think we’re never going to be angry or upset in front of our kids. Process with your child afterwards so when they experience it themselves, it’s not as scary or overwhelming. Observing your child’s experiences as well as the experiences of others around them and commenting in a non-judgemental manner will help our children to identify emotions in themselves as well as develop empathy.
We all bring with us different experiences to our parenthood journey. Some of us may have been raised to cover or hide our emotions. Emotions can be overwhelming for all of us. Pay attention to what’s happening to your own body when you experience different emotions. Does your heart race fast, do your palms become sweaty? Emotions are actually a label for physiological changes that happen in your body. Identifying these cues will help you to be able to recognize the physiological changes that happen in your body and create strategies to help you regulate. By simply paying attention to our triggers, we will become more mindful and less reactive when interacting with our children.
Regulate and Co-Regulate
We constantly hear about self- regulation in children, however, what we need to first talk about is co- regulation. Our children are not innately born knowing how to self - regulate. We all want our children to have the skills to manage strong emotions, but young children may not be developmentally capable to manage their emotions independently. They need us as parents, to be their copilot to navigate the flight of emotions they experience on a daily basis. However, it’s sometimes easier said than done as our own bodies Fight or flight response may become activated when our children are having a strong emotional experience. All children ultimately want to feel safe, secure, and loved. By being mindful and reflective of our own emotions, we are better able to regulate ourselves in order to provide a calm environment and a strong foundation for healthy emotional development.
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Dr. Liz Matheis
Dr Liz Matheis and her team specialize in assisting children and their families with Anxiety, Autism, AD/HD, Learning Disabilities and Behavioral Struggles