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When we think about keeping our children healthy, it is easy to focus on physical health - nutrition, exercise, avoiding illnesses, etc. But, it is important to remember to keep an eye on their emotional health as well. I like the way University of California, Riverside explains emotional wellness:
"Being emotionally well is more than just handling stress. It also involves being attentive to your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, whether positive or negative. Emotional Wellness implies the ability to be aware of and accept our feelings, rather than deny them, have an optimistic approach to life, and enjoy life despite its occasional disappointments and frustrations."
Emotional wellness is such a wonderful gift to give our children!
My opinion is that the single most important thing we can teach our children in regard to emotional wellness is simply how to recognize their emotions. Emotions can easily overwhelm before we are even aware of what we are feeling. If this happens to us as adults, you can image how easily they can sneak up on children. I have a child that can go from zero to full meltdown in about 2 minutes flat. Trust me when I say, there is no emotional recognition there.
Below are several tips for empowering children to recognize, accept, and deal with their emotions. And remember, you are playing a long game here. This may take years of parenting effort, but it is worth it!
- Talk about how you are feeling and prompt your child to do the same. Role modeling is key to teaching children most concepts. Emotional wellness is no different.
- Acknowledge their emotions even if they themselves aren't aware of them. For example, "I know it is frustrating to have to clean up your toys, but you got them out so it is your responsibility to put them away."
- Use the doTERRA Emotional Aromatherapy Touch Kit to help children to identify and deal with their emotions. It's part of our morning routine for my teenagers. Before they get their phones unlocked for the day, they pick an oil that suits their emotional needs. They are not only learning to stop and identify how they are feeling, they are learning to be proactive about their emotions on a daily basis.
- Do not discourage emotions that are often seen as negative such as anger, fear, or sadness. While certain behaviors are not appropriate and should be limited, all emotions are valid and can serve a purpose. Frustration, anger, and sadness when dealt with well can spur us on to great things.
- Sometimes you will need to ride out the storm. A child that is overwhelmed with emotions usually isn't super rational and may not be able to discuss their emotions in a productive way. Give them time to calm down before attempting to work on emotional wellness.
- Offer flexibility in how you communicate with your child. One of my children holds most of his emotions inside until they become overwhelming and spill out in sometimes less than ideal ways. He isn't a big talker. Period. Sometimes we will text instead of talking face to face when he needs to express something emotional. Or, we will schedule a conversation about what he is feeling. He does better with a little time to get ready.
- Teach children how to identify the positive. There will always be negative aspects to life, but the counterpoint to that is that there will always be positive aspects as well. A positive attitude goes a long way in easing many of life's difficulties. Share positive things about your own day and ask them to reciprocate. Dinner time is a great opportunity to share both positive and negative experiences and feelings.
- Expose children to methods of dealing with their emotions. Problem solving, organization, and planning skills help to create a balance in life that makes it easier to handle emotions. Practices like meditation, aromatherapy, or yoga have a positive effect on emotional wellness.
How do you teach emotional wellness to your children?