Children who grow up healthy and strong tend to be healthy and strong adults. As parents, caregivers and loving adults, we want the children in our lives to have successful futures. What we do now, what we teach them to do with their feelings will affect what they do with their feelings as adults. Here are just a few ways we can nurture good mental health in the children in our lives.
Respond calmly when their emotions are elevated.
Raising our voice doesn’t help. We might feel angry or frustrated or even panicked inside, but we must remember that we are the bigger person. We want to set an example for our little ones. Using a calm voice, will not only help ourselves to calm down, but will help our child with elevated emotions to calm down.
Doesn’t it feel like the kids are never paying attention except for when they shouldn’t be? Here is one instance where they will be paying attention. Do you forgive drivers that cut you off in traffic? Another way to model forgiveness is to say your sorry when you’ve made a mistake. This can be difficult as we want to be right all the time as adults, but there are times when it’s appropriate to apologize to our children.
Share your feelings and validate theirs.
When we’ve had a long day and we vent to a friend or loved one, it feels good to hear them sympathize. The same holds true for children. Even if we don’t understand or agree with their feelings, it’s important to validate their feelings to let them know having emotions is okay. Saying comforting phrases such as, “I’m sorry to hear that,” and “that’s a bummer, you must be sad/upset about that,” can help build a trusting relationship. Validating their feelings of pride, happiness and silliness should also not be overlooked. Some adults think they are protecting their kids by hiding the times when they are sad or worried. But just as it is important for the children in our lives to see what we do when we are happy, they should see us model what we do when we experience a variety of emotions.