This article is written by Ash Nayate and is taken from Great Health Guide (March 2016 – issue 9).
Parenting: Do You Want to Have Happy Kids? Part 2 written by Ash Nayate
We all want happy and healthy kids – and unfortunately, ‘happy habits’ don’t always come naturally nor are they necessarily taught in schools. It is possible to teach these skills to our kids and in Part 1, I covered ways of doing this in a developmentally appropriate and easily-understood way.
In this second article, I’ll be covering the unpleasant emotions which are often overlooked in the pursuit of happiness. After all, happiness doesn’t mean being happy all the time! That’s just unrealistic because life is full of challenges. The skills that allow kids to recognise happiness are also useful in recognising unpleasant emotions, like stress, anger, annoyance, frustration, irritation, sadness and so on. As it’s challenging for them to deal with these emotions, our guidance is crucial.
It’s important to teach our kids the basis of emotions (e.g. frustration is a sign that they are feeling thwarted in their attempts to achieve something) and for us to encourage a healthy and resourceful way of dealing with them.
This means that WE need to deal with our emotions in a healthy and resourceful way too. If we eat chocolate to cope with stress, there’s a good chance our kids will develop this strategy as well. While there’s nothing inherently wrong with resorting to chocolate to cope with stress, we must ensure it’s not the only strategy we teach our kids.
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Different strategies will work for different children, for different emotions. A young child might deal with anger by blowing up a balloon and then throwing it around the room. An older child might deal with anger by removing herself from a situation and taking a walk, or writing furiously in a journal, or going for a bike ride, or venting to a best friend (or in front of a mirror).
If our children are dealing with their emotions in undesirable ways (e.g. yelling at others, hitting others etc.) – it’s simply a signal that they haven’t developed their resourceful coping strategies well enough and the undesirable behaviour is still their default method of coping. The way to overcome that is to encourage our kids to practice their coping skills, even during emotionally-neutral times, so that those skills become automatic.
Teaching kids to navigate the minefield of emotional regulation is a sometimes challenging but highly rewarding endeavour. And it’s a great way to set them up for success in adulthood – knowing that they can handle whatever life throws at them, in a healthy and resourceful way.
And best of all? Teaching kids about their emotions gives US the opportunity to improve our own coping skills too. And that benefits us, our families and our communities – because they get to experience the best version of us.
Author of this article:
Ash Nayate is a clinical neuropsychologist, which means that she specializes in brain function and how this impacts on our behavior. She has almost 15 years’ experience working with children and families, supporting them to feel happier, more confident and more resilient. To contact Ash please visit her website.
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