When you become a parent, it is the start of a complete rollercoaster ride, with so much joy but some tough parts too. You have a whole little person to take care of; being able to provide for your child’s physical needs, such as somewhere to live, food, and clothing, can be relatively straightforward. But those aren’t just the things that our children need from us. There are experiences that they need, decisions that they need to make, as well as us as parents helping to care for their emotional needs too; the latter being something that can be a little tricky.
There are a lot of ways to parent too, from being a helicopter parent, being a laid back parent, being an attachment parent, or being a strict parent, to name just a few. And although there are various styles of parenting, which is completely your choice, most parenting experts tend to agree that there are some general guidelines that can help to nurture a child’s emotional health and that can help to lay the groundwork for them to go on to have an emotionally healthy life as an adult. Here are some things to be thinking about, no matter the age of your children.
- As your children grow, it is so important to be aware of the different stages of child development. This isn’t so that you can compare them to a checklist, but so you make sure that you don’t expect too much from them at their age, or likewise, don’t expect too little from them either. All children are different, but there are some milestones or stages that they tend be at by certain ages. So don’t give them too much to do for their age, as that can hinder them. Equally, they need to be pushed a little, so don’t just sit back and let them get on with things or ‘raise themselves.’
- Something that can be hard as a parent, but is really necessary, is to encourage your child to express their feelings. How they are feeling is completely new to them, so they don’t know how to respond to some things, even though they are feeling them. So as parents, we need to respect those feelings and listen to how they are feeling; let them express their feelings. Talk to them about how they feel and let them know how things feel for you. We can all experience pain, anxiety, or anger from time to time, it is just knowing what to do with it. If they are feeling anxious about something, then talk to them to get to the bottom of why they feel that way, for instance. This can then help your child to express how they feel, without a negative impact (such as showing they are angry, without being violent).
- On a similar note, helping our children to know and recognise stress is something that is really important. No matter what age they are, they are likely to encounter the feeling of stress at some point in their life. And stress, if it isn’t dealt with well, can be something that is really detrimental to health. So it could be knowing how to help kids manage exam stress or knowing how to help them when they start a new school. Look out for signs that they are stressed, talk about it, and then look for ways to deal with it so they can use those tools going forward in their life.
- Having mutual respect and trust as a parent and child is something that is really important, so looking for ways to promote that is really going to be a good idea. It can be tempting to raise your voice with children, but by shouting over them, even if you don’t agree with what has been said or what has happened, can be detrimental. Keep communication open and it will help them to have respect for you, as well as you having respect for them.
- Being able to be confident, independent and knowing your self-worth is something that many adults struggle with. But is this because we have always had a feeling of not feeling confident, or something that perhaps we weren’t taught to foster as we grew up? Life happens to us all, and there are things in our lives that can knock confidence or can impact your self-worth in a negative way. But how we respond is key. So help your child to be able to deal with the ups and downs that come as part of life. Promote confidence in your child’s ability to do certain things, and help them to be independent through giving them responsibility. That can boost confidence too, as they learn how to deal with and tackle new experiences.
- Discipline is something that will have to happen as we raise children. But how you do so can have an impact, for better or for worse. It is best to be able to discipline in a ways that is constructive, fair, and consistent. Of course, it can feel like that is much easier said than done. But think about using how you discipline your children as a chance to teach them something, rather than making it about a physical punishment. All children are different, and all parents are too. So take time to learn what will work for you child (and that can be different for other children that you have as well, just to make things nice and simple for you). When you show your approval for things that they do well, it does make a difference; don’t just communicate when something has been done wrong. If things do go wrong, then helping them to learn from what has gone wrong is a really positive thing to do.
- It might sound like a pretty obvious one here, but make sure that you love unconditionally, rather than have your love attached to something. Teach your children the value of saying sorry, forgiveness, patience, and being considerate of others.
**This is a collaborative post**