When a person grows up listening to negative thoughts about the self from an early age, then this can have quite an impact on the person. If these issues are not addressed early on, then this constant negative self-talk gets reinforced and can lead to poor emotional wellbeing and struggles later into adulthood.
Children who are able to understand and manage their emotions have the ability to view things with a positive perspective. This gives them the space to grow cognitively, creatively, and socially. During all of this, the support you provide as a parent is of utmost importance. Looking after their emotional needs is just as important as their cognitive development. Here are some practical tips to support your child emotionally:
1. Pay attention: children can show they’re struggling in several different ways. They may act out and constantly get into trouble or withdraw into their own bubble. This could signal a bigger issue that needs to be tackled. If you’re aware of what’s going on, you’re in a better position to provide emotional support for your child.
2. Encourage expression: teach your child how to recognise why they’re feeling certain emotions and how to express those feelings. They may express themselves in the form of a story, drawing, or a diary entry. Be patient and hear them out as this helps them gain self-awareness.
3. Put yourself in their shoes: listen to your child and their viewpoints, validate their feelings. This helps them to process the situation better and even allows them to accept a different perspective as they feel understood and accepted.
4. It’s okay to not feel okay: it’s important to let your child know that everyone struggles from time to time, it’s a normal part of life.
5. Allow them time to self-reflect: make it a habit where they spend some time thinking through past situations: their actions, behaviours and how to handle similar situations in the future. This can help them understand why they feel a certain way and how to cope with it.
6. Be supportive: be available for your child so they understand that you’re always there for them if they need you. Understanding and respecting their feelings strengthens their emotional development. This gives them more space to focus on building their skills, creativity and learning.
7. Boost their self-esteem: rather than focusing on times when your child struggles and unintentionally causing them to feel inadequate, emphasise their good qualities and skills they’ve developed. This reinforces their self-worth reducing negative thinking about themselves.
8. Resilience: children find it difficult to cope when things don’t go their way. This can result in feelings that are hard for them to deal with. In these situations, it’s helpful to reassure them, validate their feelings and let them know that they’re capable of bouncing back, no matter what situation is thrown at them.
9. Help build relationships: good relationships, whether with family or friends, acts as solid ground for your child to stand on as they’re exploring and learning about the world around them. Our relationships with those around us affect the way we feel, and hence it’s important that children learn how to build relationships and solidify those connections.
10. Learning by example: if you’re the type of person that’s closed off and embarrassed or uncomfortable of expressing your feelings, your child is likely to mimic this behaviour. Showing your children that you’re able to express your emotions and cope with them in a positive way will let them know that when faced with adversity, they too can do the same.
A little bit of love and care, and empathy and support every single day goes a long way to strengthen the beautiful bond you share with your child.