The Emotionally Healthy Child

Happiness is a skill, emotional balance is a skill, compassion and altruism are skills, and like any skill they need to be developed. That’s what education is about.
Matthieu Ricard

Does your son struggle with sadness? Or is your daughter quick to anger? Has screaming, slamming doors or sassing you back become a regular occurrence in your home? If yes, you’re not alone. Millions of adults everywhere are seeking solutions to their child’s quick emotional reactions, intensity and oftentimes poor choices. This is the main reason I have been researching emotionally healthy children . But to start, what is an emotionally healthy child?

Emotional Health : A Working Definition

The Emotionally Healthy Child is facing her emotions and not running from them. She is learning how to be with uncomfortable – often challenging emotions, and ultimately releasing them constructively versus destructively. The beginning of positive emotional health is therefore when a child learns how to:

  • Identify emotions
  • Express them constructively (not destructively)
  • Display self-control
  • Make smarter choices

Of course, emotional health is more complex than simply identifying emotions and learning to self-regulate, but it’s a beginning. There is also the formation of an emotionally healthy mindset, developing character and self-awareness, which are aspects of becoming emotionally healthy and ultimately, making less reactive choices.

Take for example, Joshua, who was playing on the playground. He’s gotten into the habit when he gets frustrated, he pushes Mark. But fast forward a month, Josh has now learned how to catch himself (most days) and make better choices. He’s walked away from Mark, he’s used his words and he’s learned how to express his anger in more constructive ways. This is the start of Joshua mastering his emotions and learning how to steer his own emotional boat (metaphorically) toward calmer, healthier seas.

Model brave behavior. Want confident kids? They will be less likely to be easily flustered if they see you taking healthy risks. "A lot of adults won't go to a movie solo because they would be embarrassed to be seen sitting alone. So do it, then talk to your kids about it," says David Allyn, the author of I Can't Believe I Just Did That. Similarly, if your kids see you laugh when you realize that your shirt has been on backwards all morning, maybe they'll giggle, instead of feeling embarrassed, when it happens to them.

Just the beginning

We all want to raise emotionally healthy children, but the how is where we struggle. Stay tuned as over the next few weeks, I’ll share some key ideas of how to raise an emotionally healthy child and we’ll grow stronger together. Today, we simply began the journey, but we’ll unpack emotional health as the year ends so in our new year – we can be our best, and help our children ultimately do the same. Are you with me?