Essentials For Emotional Well-Being
The power of emotional wellness for our children.
Emotions are tricky and complicated. Many adults are still working on dealing with our own feelings, and it can be challenging to understand how to help our children to have coping skills for their emotions. And yet, emotional well-being is an essential cornerstone to a child’s ability to thrive in school. Families can use the following tactics to develop emotional health at home with their children.
Develop an understanding of emotions. What are the possible emotions and how does one look and act when feeling each one? For older children, families can talk about what people may feel in various situations. This is a helpful activity for teenagers because it allows them to gain perspective. For younger children, note cards can be used to teach names and facial expressions for certain emotions.
These are examples of common emotions. Notice how well you can define each:
- Joy — a feeling of great pleasure or happiness
- Anger — a strong feeling of annoyance or hostility
- Sadness — a state of sorrow or regret
- Boredom — a state of tiredness due to disinterest
- Embarrassment — a state of awkwardness, self-consciousness or shame
Figure out what triggers emotions. Think about what creates happiness, what causes sadness. Be aware of what instances elicit anger or joy. Adults can share these instances with children and parents should point out triggers to children. Be sure to do this during neutral times. If your child is angry because her friend won’t talk to her, my advice would be not to catch her just after she hangs out with her friends to discuss her social trigger. Talk with her during dinner at home or on the way to sports practice. If you need a starter for this conversation, start by saying, “I notice you seem angry when …. What do you think about my observation?”
Provide plenty of simple options for coping with difficult emotions. There is no one way to handle feelings of disappointment or anger, but there are healthy and unhealthy ways of dealing with challenging emotions. An unhealthy way of dealing with anger might be to throw a tantrum and harm the feelings of another person by yelling at or hurting someone else. A quick way to understand if a coping mechanism is unhealthy is if it causes harm or stress to a person. Instead, a child who is feeling anger could be taught to take deep breaths, use visualization techniques, and/or journal about triggers or events which cause him or her feelings of anger.
Try any of these healthy coping strategies:
- Breathing — smelling the flowers and blowing out the candles
- Exercise — move in a way you love
- Music — listen to music which you enjoy
- Art — sketch, color or create something
- Talk — talk with someone about your feelings
- Meditation — practice daily mindfulness meditation
- Gain perspective — Read a book or watch a movie; realize emotions come and then go. The uncomfortable feelings pass.
Know when to partner with professionals for help. Students who struggle with emotional health and well-being may need to consult with a medical professional. If you are ever unsure if you need support, it never does hurt to ask, but certainly ask if a child is suffering with his or her functioning in any way. Sometimes what begins as a smaller issue, builds to a larger issue, because it was never properly addressed. Habits are formed over time and can be difficult to break and reteach. If your child needs professional help, be sure to be grateful for modern medicine and work hard to define your child as more than his or her emotional struggles. When nothing seems to be working, ask, “What is working?” And always keep a list of your child’s gifts and talents.
The power emotional well-being provides is substantial. When a child learns how to identify and work through any emotion in a healthy way, he or she is able to have control over his or her response to any situation.
A child I once worked with was able to identify feelings of embarrassment and anxiety she had in her middle school years during a social situation. By understanding those feelings, she was able to reach out to adults in her life to ask for healthy coping strategies. Ultimately, she was able to navigate social stress without causing damage to her overall well-being. She remained confident, healthy and effective in her studies despite the emotional struggles she encountered. The road we take with our children is lined with imperfection, but we must stay the course as our goal for all children is to be emotionally healthy, so they can thrive in school.