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Building Emotional Wellness in Kids and Teens

Just like how children are taught subjects like mathematics and languages, emotional skills too can be taught. Most of us would agree that we could have dealt differently with a lot of situations in our lives if we’d known certain emotional skills earlier. To ditch this regret, it is important that kids and teens today are taught the necessary emotional skills that would help them deal with different situations effectively.

Kids and teens need to be taught how to identify their feelings. They need to be taught the names of their feelings and the appropriate ways to express those feelings. Remember that effective communication is an art and only a person who knows what they feel, knows the best way to express it in words after several trials and errors.

If your child is older, let’s say, a teenager and he or she is facing emotional problems, it’s never too late to begin with the journey of emotional well-being.

What is emotional wellness or emotional well-being?

To begin with, emotional wellness doesn’t necessarily mean staying happy at all times. In fact, the fundamental step towards emotional well-being is to accept and acknowledge what a person is truly feeling, be it sadness, anger or joy. It is the ability to understand oneself, recognise what they’re feeling, why they are feeling so and accordingly coping with their emotions.

But the fun fact is, we can never learn it all. Life is a journey and our experiences are different episodes of this series. Although there might be certain similarities between two episodes, each one has a new way of unfurling itself which further demands a different response from us. It is with constant trial and error and the basic understanding of ourselves that we can keep getting better at being emotionally well.

Not just children, even today, us adults are constantly getting better at being emotionally well, learning how to do so under different circumstances. Truth is, we all have had our share of hardships and traumas but the best part is that we can all heal from them and thrive.

How can parents help children in building emotional wellness?

Parents play the most important role in developing the emotional intelligence and well-being of their children. One of the simplest ways to do so is by supporting your child emotionally. Emotional unavailability of parents to tend to their children’s needs can turn out really ugly.

Children today go through huge amounts of stress. It is certainly not similar to what you, as a parent today, went through during your childhood but it is certainly not up for comparison as the circumstances are completely different.

Another common mistake we make as parents is that we assume that we already know everything about our children and their circumstances. Kids today undergo emotional challenges that we can’t possibly know because we’ve never experienced such things first hand. The best way to go about such circumstances is to allow your child to speak and pay attention to what they have to say.

When your child gathers the courage to open up about an emotional challenge, sit down with him or her, keep your phone aside and avoid distractions. Listen to what they have to say and try to understand it from their point of view. Making eye contact and repeating what they said before adding your suggestion would make them feel safe and heard. They’ll feel that you aren’t judging them and listen to what you have to say.

It is also important to keep an eye on your child’s physical health. Studies show a direct relationship between poor physical health and emotional unrest. Is your child spending too much time on the screens? Are they doing enough physical movement to feel active and energetic? If not, talking to them about it can impact them. Try and be a role model if necessary.

When talking about being a role model, it’s not a sign of weakness to talk about your own emotions in front of your child. In fact, the more you open up to them, the more they’ll know how to open up to you and to others. It doesn’t always have to be heavy and hard. Simple things like “I’m feeling stressed, let me meditate for a while,” or “I’ll play some music to calm myself,” can do the trick.

How to begin with emotional wellness for your child?

Since we’ve established that it’s an ongoing process and one cannot possibly learn everything about emotional wellness at one go, let’s begin with some basic steps.

Teach your child to become more aware, accept and acknowledge their feelings and emotions. This is the first step towards emotional wellness. Staying in a state of denial or negligence has its own set of cons.
Teach them coping skills that work best for them. Every individual is different with different coping mechanisms. Observe what works best for your child and teach them to implement it slowly.
Teach problem solving skills. Situations are already problem creators. If your child learns to focus on resolving, chances are they’ll do way better emotionally.
Engage your child in activities that nourish their health and mind. Yoga and other creative activities help nurture self-esteem, security and establish better emotional strength.

Most importantly, prioritizing self-care, establishing healthy boundaries and practicing gratitude are the key steps to emotional wellness.