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Navigating Motherhood for the Modern Mama

Unlocking Emotional Wellness in Children: 4 Actionable Key Strategies for a Brighter Future

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Parenting is an extraordinary journey that comes burdened with the weight of responsibility. Amid the daily whirlwind of decisions, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the countless considerations that could impact our children’s emotional wellness. We ponder the snack choices for our toddlers and grapple with choosing the right school for our teenagers. Yet, beneath this complex tapestry of concerns lies a more straightforward truth about our children’s fundamental emotional wellness.

Research tells us that, at its core, helping our children feel secure involves making them feel safe, seen, and soothed. But what does this entail? Does ensuring their safety mean we should be their constant companions, or should we encourage them to build secure relationships beyond us? Does soothing them mean shielding them from challenges, or should we empower them with tools to manage their emotions? Meeting our child’s emotional wellness needs isn’t without its challenges, but it’s a tangible goal that can guide us as parents.

What is Emotional Wellness?

Emotional wellness is our ability to navigate challenges effectively, adapt to change and uncertainty, and skillfully manage our emotions. It significantly impacts one’s daily functioning by improving connections with others, promoting physical health, and ultimately feeling better about oneself. The goal is to shift ourselves toward greater emotional wellness, where we can experience happiness and flourish.

The National Center for Emotional Wellness defines it as an awareness and acceptance of our emotions, coupled with the ability to manage them effectively in the face of challenges and change. Being attuned to our feelings allows us to better connect with our bodily sensations, making our emotional responses more reliable. Practicing mindfulness, staying present without dwelling on the past or future, is crucial for emotional wellness.

Emotional wellness encourages us to slow down and embrace mindfulness. It doesn’t mean we’re always happy, but we are self-aware and can adjust to feel better. This state leads to a more comfortable and fulfilling life, enabling us to reach our full potential.

emotional wellness
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Why is Emotional Wellness Important in Early Childhood?

Children who cultivate social and emotional wellness during their early years are likelier to grow into self-assured, trusting, empathetic, curious, and communicative individuals. This robust social and emotional foundation is the cornerstone for their mental, emotional, and physical wellness.

The emotional wellness of children plays a vital role in shaping their overall development and learning experiences. Mentally healthy children generally experience greater happiness, exhibit stronger motivation to learn, maintain a more positive outlook on school, actively engage in classroom activities, and achieve higher academic success than their peers who face mental health challenges.

Cultivating a Sense of Being Seen

To ensure our children feel genuinely seen, we must strive to understand their individuality, separate from our perceptions and expectations. Here are some essential focus areas:

Active Listening: The most straightforward yet vital step is dedicating time to listen to our children actively. Amid the chaos of parenthood and the pressures of daily life, it’s easy to become lost in our worlds.

Making a conscious effort to listen to our children helps them feel genuinely understood, regardless of what they’re going through. At the same time, their emotions may not always align with logic; our willingness to be present and attentive matters significantly.

Our children thrive on attuned, responsive interactions. We should hear their words and reflect on their feelings to demonstrate our genuine understanding. Responses like, “I understand this is challenging for you,” or “I’m here for you when you’re overwhelmed” can profoundly impact their feelings. Creating a safe space for our children to express themselves necessitates avoiding defensiveness or arguments when they share their unique experiences.

Avoiding Labels: From the moment our children are born, we often label them as “fussy babies,” “bossy toddlers,” “shy kids,” or “flaky teenagers.” These labels can significantly shape our children’s self-identities. Avoiding definitions and labels that merely reflect our desires or perceptions is essential.

Our projections sometimes cloud our view of our children. We might unknowingly complain about them or make disparaging remarks. Conversely, we might excessively praise them, assigning labels like the “smart one” or the “pretty one,” inadvertently implying their worth hinges on meeting our expectations. Instead, it’s more beneficial to avoid definitive statements, nurture curiosity about who they are, support their interests, and encourage their unique expressions.

Distinguishing Our Experience from Theirs: To truly understand our children, we should reflect on our upbringing. How were we treated in our families? How were we perceived? In what ways do we unconsciously replicate these patterns or, conversely, overcompensate for them?

For instance, if we feel like a burden in our own family, do we unintentionally perceive our child in the same light and feel burdened by their requests? Or do we worry they’ll experience what we did and compensate by doing too much for them?

Delighting in Them: Cultivating a kind and curious attitude towards our children is incredibly valuable. Recent studies suggest that taking delight in our children might be one of our most significant gifts. We should set aside moments to let our children make us laugh, appreciate their quirks, and cherish their unique expressions.

This isn’t about inflating their egos with exaggerated praise; it’s about authentically enjoying their presence so they can feel valued for themselves.

Fostering a Sense of Safety

Irrespective of our parenting style, whether we work full-time or stay at home, our primary aim is to provide a secure foundation from which our children can confidently explore the world.

Creating a sense of safety involves offering nurture, care, warmth, affection, and consistency. We must be a stable, reliable presence in our children’s lives. However, we should do some things for them.

Nurture Independence: As parents, we provide a loving platform for our children to launch into the world eventually. We must equip them with the tools to navigate life with confidence. This entails granting them the independence to explore and encouraging them to do as much as possible for themselves. It also involves fulfilling our own needs independently of our children and avoiding projecting our desires onto them, which can make them feel unsafe or overly dependent on us.

Additionally, it’s essential to demonstrate through our example that we are complete individuals with rich lives – our children are an integral part of our lives, not our entire lives.

Fulfill Your Needs: Strike a balance between caring for your emotional wellness and tending to your child’s needs. It’s important not to impose your desires or emotional burdens onto your children, as this can make them feel overwhelmed or responsible for your happiness.

Instead, by demonstrating that you are a complete individual with your interests, dreams, and fulfilling life outside of parenting, you provide them with a healthy model of self-care and boundaries, showing them that it’s possible to lead a balanced and fulfilling life.

Providing Comfort and Soothing

Empathetic Support: We must be attuned to our children’s distress to offer soothing support. We should provide comfort and assistance aligning with their emotions and experiences. We can engage them in conversation, listen to their feelings, and reflect on those thoughts and emotions to show that we understand.

Empathetic Support for Children
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Avoid Projection: When our children are in pain, we should practice empathy without projecting our past experiences onto them. It’s easy to assume that our children feel the way we did as children, but they are unique individuals with their own experiences and reactions. We should avoid feeling sorry for them or indulging them to alleviate their distress. Instead, we should empower them with the ability to handle difficult emotions and teach them healthy coping strategies, equipping them to navigate life’s challenges with resilience.

Teach Coping Strategies: It equips them with the skills to navigate life’s ups and downs with resilience and adaptability. By guiding them in managing distressing emotions, problem-solving, and fostering a growth mindset, you empower your children to face challenges head-on and develop the confidence to overcome obstacles, ultimately setting them toward emotional wellness.

Personal Growth as a Parent

Cultivate Inner Security: Parenthood is a journey that often reveals challenges within ourselves. Unresolved issues from our past may surface in our interactions with our children. Therefore, it’s essential to cultivate inner security, allowing us to be the best parents we can be.

To achieve this, we must confront and resolve our own painful experiences from the past, as our children may trigger these. For some of us, accepting our child’s love can be painful, resurrecting emotions of not feeling loved in our childhoods.

Separate Reactions: Our child’s cries might feel overwhelming because they echo our past pain. Separating our reactions from our children’s experiences lightens their emotional burden and enables us to be more attuned and present for them when they need us. Ultimately, we become better equipped to meet our children’s emotional needs by tending to our emotional wellness.

Enhance Parenting Skills: Recognize that emotional wellness is fundamental to meeting your children’s emotional needs effectively. When you prioritize your emotional health, you’re better equipped to offer them the stability, support, and guidance they require to flourish.

By fostering your emotional wellness, you become a more empathetic and patient parent and create a nurturing environment that empowers your children to develop into resilient, emotionally healthy individuals.

emotional wellness
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  1. Helping Children Feel Seen
  • Active Listening: Dedicate time to listen actively and attentively to your children, making them feel understood and valued.
  • Avoid Labels: Refrain from assigning labels to your children, as these can shape their self-identities and limit their potential.
  • Distinguish Your Experience: Reflect on your upbringing and avoid projecting your past experiences onto your children.
  • Delight in Them: Cultivate a kind and curious attitude toward your children, finding joy in their unique qualities and expressions.
  1. Fostering a Sense of Safety
  • Nurture Independence: Provide a secure base for your children to explore the world, empowering them to do things for themselves.
  • Fulfill Your Needs: Avoid imposing your needs onto your children, allowing them to see you as a complete individual with a prosperous life.
  • Teach Coping Strategies: Help your children develop the ability to manage distressing emotions and provide them with tools to handle life’s challenges with resilience.
  1. Providing Comfort and Soothing
  • Empathetic Support: Tune in to your children’s distress and offer comfort and assistance that align with their emotions and experiences.
  • Avoid Projection: Don’t assume your children feel like you did as a child; recognize their uniqueness and avoid indulging or feeling sorry for them.
  • Teach Coping Strategies: Help your children develop the ability to manage distressing emotions and provide them with tools to handle life’s challenges with resilience.
  1. Personal Growth as a Parent
  • Cultivate Inner Security: Cultivating inner security allows us to be the best parents we can be. We become more attuned and present parents by addressing unresolved past experiences triggered by parenthood.
  • Separate Reactions: Distinguishing our reactions from our children’s experiences is crucial to lightening their emotional burden. This separation creates a solid foundation for their emotional wellness, enabling us to be their unwavering support.
  • Enhance Parenting Skills: By tending to your emotional wellness, you become better equipped to meet your children’s emotional needs and provide them with a solid foundation for growth.
Kay | Motherhood Blogger

Welcome to The Mama Compass! I’m Kay, just another parent navigating the realm of health and wellness and all the beautiful chaos that comes with it. With a focus on parenting, travel, and wellness, I share my own experiences, comforting insights, and reassuring discoveries from my journey alongside my sweet son, Maui. We all encounter similar joys and challenges, and my aim is to connect with you on a relatable level. Join us as we embark on a shared exploration of practical tips for nurturing a healthy lifestyle, exchange stories of mindful parenting, and immerse ourselves in exhilarating travel escapades, Maui-style. We’ll embrace the harmonious blend of family, wellness, and wanderlust on this enriching journey. Together, we’ll find your ‘true north’ on The Mama Compass!

Kay xox

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