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10 Essentials for Raising Emotionally Healthy Children

There's a lot of information available on how to raise children. Unfortunately, some parents are not as successful as others.  So what's the secret sauce?  Why are some parents more successful than others?  Raising children is not easy, especially ...

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Raising children is not easy, especially if it's your first child.  They take a lot of time, energy and attention.  The first five formative years of their life are the most important because the relationships that they form and the experiences they will have, help to shape the adults they will become.

In the first five years of life, your child’s brain develops more and faster than at any other time in their life. Your relationship with your child is also critically important as it shapes the way they learn and develop.  This is when the foundations for learning, health and behaviour throughout life are laid down.  

Relationships are the foundation for your childs development.  They affect all areas and stages of their development.  What they experience is also incredibly important.  Their relationships and experiences teach them most about the the world around them. They also shape the way they see the world.  

A child’s most important relationship is with their primary care giver which in most cases is their mother.  Then comes other family members and finally early childhood educators. 

A loving, nurturing relationship will help you and your child to bond and learn about one another every day.   Through play your child will learn and develop.  They will require your attention, support and encouragement during these early years.  

Time spent interacting with your child through, playing, talking, reading, singing, dancing and listening to them will help your child learn the skills they need in life.  These skills include observing, exploring, thinking, communicating, experimenting, solving problems and socializing with other people and children.   

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Giving your undivided attention, reading and playing with your child are the ultimate relationship builders.  It sends your child a simple but powerful message that they are important to you and that they are loved and cared for.  This message helps your child learn about who they are as a person and where they fit in the world.

There are several things that can have a huge impact on your childs emotional wellbeing and development.  Some you have more control over, others not as much.  Some of these include healthy eating, physical activity, their general health and the neighbourhood you live in.

Below we'll discuss 10 more specific, basic essentials required for raising an emotionally healthy young child.

1. Build and Maintain High Self-Esteem

Smiling Kenyan child

I Feel Really Good About Myself.  Image Credit:  Trocaire via Wikimedia Commons.

Children who have high self-esteem have a positive outlook, accept themselves and feel confident.  They appreciate their own self-worth and importance and take responsibility for their actions.   They show respect and care for others.

Your child’s self-esteem affects how well they do on a daily basis.  It affects all of their relationships and impacts how well they do at school and in social situations. Positive self-esteem begins with your child’s healthy attachment to you as they grow up.  Children need to feel love and accepted to build their self-esteem.

Parents play an important role in strengthening children's self-esteem by treating them respectfully, taking their views and opinions seriously and expressing appreciation to them.  Self-esteem is an important part of every child's development.

2. Instill a Positive Attitude

Positively Having Fun!

Positively Having Fun!  Best buds forever!

A positive attitude opens up your children’s world to new possibilities.  It brings happiness and optimism in their life.  It enables their play, learning and creativity to flourish.  It will help them to cope more easily with daily events in their life when things don’t always go their way.

A positive attitude in children will fill their life with positive energy and a solution oriented, can do attitude.  It’ll help build their self-esteem, self-confidence and character. They’ll believe in themselves more and their abilities will be strengthened.

A positive attitude in a child will benefit them at home and school.  It affects the way that they look at the world. It will attract their peers as friends who also have positive attitudes.  A positive attitude is an energizing mindset and with it, life smiles at you.

3. Establish a Bed Time

Kid on Happy Drugs

Bed time already?!  No Way! ...  Image Credit:  ayes via Wikimedia Commons

​A regular bedtime benefits a child's physical health, as well as mood and mental health because it allows time for restorative sleep which is important for the repair and recovery of the brain and the body.

A regular bedtime routine provides more quality, sound sleep.  Children with regular bedtimes are less likely to be irritable and misbehave when awake.  Children's behavior will improve with structured bed times in their lives.  

A structured bedtime sets and establishes limits and boundaries which all children need.  Academic performance increases and children develop faster emotionally, socially and mentally.

4. Set Boundaries / Follow Rules

Couple of Goody Two-Shoes Smiling Proud

A couple of proud Goody Two-Shoes keeners who follow the rules.  Image Credit:  John Hoey via Wikimedia Commons.

Following a set of family rules and staying within boundaries help children to become more disciplined. They’ll understand your expectations, what is permissible behavior and what is expected from them.

It reassures them that they are safe and secure and provides them with a sense of order.  They intuitively know that they need an adult to be in charge and that they count on their parents to guide their behavior.  This sends a message to them that you are concerned for them, care about them and love them.

Children learn how to socialize within these limits.  It provides a framework so they understand what’s expected of them.  It also prepares them for the real world.  As you gradually expand these rules and the limits placed on them they’ll become more confident about their emerging independence and their ability to handle responsibility.

5. Reward them for Good Behavior

Iraqi Girl Smiling

A classic good behaviour smile.  Image Credit:  Christiaan Briggs via Wikimedia Commons

Rewarding children for good behavior lets them know that you approve, that they have done good and that you would like them to continue to repeat their good behavior.  It encourages them to continue and this behavior is more likely to happen again in the future.

Tangible rewards, like chocolates for young children and intangible rewards, like hugs and kisses for older children are a positive, constructive way to reward them and reinforce their good behavior.  Any reward system used, needs to be fairly immediate and quickly follow the good behavior, so your child can associate it with their good behavior.

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6. Teach them Good Manners

Family pic of well mannered children.

Family pic of emotionally healthy, well adjusted and impeccably mannered children.

Children learning good manners shows respect for themselves and others.   It conveys a sense of respect for the sensibilities of other people.  Children grow up to be kinder and more considerate of others when they learn good manners at a young age.

Good manners show that a child listens to their parents and does what he is taught. These are good character traits that society respects.  Children will build and develop stronger relationships throughout their lifetime by showing respect for others and by practicing good manners.

Learning good manners also meets a social expectation.  Children are expected to have good manners and will be treated with more respect when they do.  Thus, good manners will open more doors for them in the future and will help contribute to their success in life.

7. Encourage Trying and Effort

Smiling Bhutanese school children

I'm trying real hard to smile, can you tell? ... Image Credit: LAI Ryanne via Wikimedia Commons.

When children struggle with little success they tend to lose confidence in themselves. They end up believing that they’re incapable of accomplishing their tasks or that they will never improve and get any better at doing them. 

This is when persistence, effort and trying pays off.  The key to effort and trying is to make small incremental improvements and progress each and every day and integrate it into their everyday life.

Having a growth mindset links trying, effort and persistence with improvement and ability.  Focus on the effort based process, even if they make mistakes and not on the end result.  

Encouraging effort and trying in young children are important life long, character building traits.  It will only help them to overcome challenges they will face, which will benefit them throughout their lives.

8. Teach them to Manage their Emotions

Yes, Finally Victory!  I can't believe it ...

Yes, Finally Victory!  I can't believe it ... finally ...

Teaching children to control their emotions provides numerous benefits for them. This includes being more disciplined, behaving better, paying more attention, working harder, achieving more in school, resolving conflicts with their classmates and caring for others.

When children's feelings are heard, acknowledged and validated, the benefits are two fold.  They are able to think more constructively about how to cope with their feelings. They also learn to regulate their emotions.  

When children's feelings are heard, acknowledged and validated everything will feels less painful.  They will be less insistent in their demands and will be more open and flexible to seek solutions for problems.

There will be less blaming, arguments and denial.   There will be more feeling of empathy and concern for others and taking responsibility for their actions.  The fact that we can accept and value their emotions will help them to feel better and do better in every aspect of their lives.

9. Encourage Strengths, Abilities and Special Skills

Face Painted Child

I painted it myself!.  Image Credit:  Pwstadtmarketing via Wikimedia Commons.

Encouraging strengths, abilities and special skills in children is important for improving self-esteem, self-confidence, their sense of self-worth and their health and happiness.

It expresses their identity and who they really are.  When children focus on what they’re good at, they develop into adults who are respectful and are also respected for who they are.

​They experience more success in life by focusing on their strengths, natural abilities and what they enjoy doing.  And isn't that what life's all about?

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10. Let them Make their Own Choices

Boy with head screwed off.

Hey Ma', can I unscrew my head?  No, Johnny don't unscrew it.  Please Ma?  Ok Johnny, unscrew your head ... but be careful and don't hurt yourself, ok?  Ok, thanks Ma. You're the best!  Image Credit: Böhringer Friedrich via Wikimedia Commons. Finalist for Picture of the Year 2011.  Considered one of the finest images.

Offering choices to children allows them to practice the skills of independence and responsibility.  When given choices, children need to think and decide what is more important to them, which allows them to stretch their minds.  Children then feel more committed to the choice and the decision that they have chosen for themselves.

Making choices and decisions in their life make them feel more independent, responsible and valued for their contributions.  Limiting choices for young children helps them select more easily.  By offering children limited choices that are acceptable to us, we don't fall into the trap of giving them complete control.

Parents need to provide their children with appropriate, healthful options while helping them to make and accept their choices.  The result is we will be developing confident, independent, responsible children who feel that they are in control of their lives.

A simply awesome pic of a young Gioia Nepalese girl.

A simply awesome pic of a young Gioia Nepalese girl.  Image Credit:  Andreastagnaro via Wikimedia Commons.

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Question:  

Does your family incorporate the aforementioned essentials in your daily lives?​  

Are any of them lacking?  

Which ones?

How come?  

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