Children’s feelings have an impact on their daily
functioning, including their behaviour, productivity, and
creative expression. Here’s how parents can help to fortify
kids’ emotional well-being.
“No matter how apparently smart or confident,
each child is still a child first and foremost, with all the
anxieties that go with being young, vulnerable, and
inexperienced in life.”
Kids who have a positive perspective about the ups and downs of
daily life are better able to stretch themselves cognitively,
creatively, productively, and socially. Those who are able to
manage their emotions are stronger for it. They’re ready to
welcome learning experiences. To ask questions. And, to
discover new, creative, and comprehensive ways of thinking
about the world around them.
Regardless of age, personal growth is about competencies and
opportunities—but it’s also about how a person
feels when doing things; that is,
when actually exercising those competencies, and experiencing
those learning opportunities. And, because there’s a harmonious
interplay between how kids feel and
what they do, their emotional needs
should not be overlooked when thinking about how to support
their intellectual development, skill-building efforts,
creativity, or overall well-being.
Eight Practical Tips for Parents
“Emotions, from the Latin root movere, “to move,”
are what stir us into action. As a beacon of light guides a
lost ship, emotions guide our behaviors.”
Emotional literacy is a fundamental aspect of healthy child
development. The following suggestions are for parents who are
seeking to help kids strengthen their emotional capacities:
1. Be aware. Pay attention to children’s
reactions and behaviors (such as acting out, depression,
aggression, procrastination, arrogance, or introversion).
Parents who are attuned to their children, and aware of what
they’re up to—and with whom—are better positioned to help them
respond to challenges and any emotional upheavals.
2. Identify causes. Help kids recognize the
causes that underlie the feelings they’re experiencing. (For
example, fear, guilt, joy, embarrassment, jealousy, confusion,
disgust, grief, hope, frustration…) Encourage them to name and
to acknowledge those feelings in order to gain self-awareness.
They may want to choose the time or place. Some children have
trouble putting feelings into words, so be prepared to help
them with that. Stories can be good catalysts, and drawing or
journaling can also be beneficial.
3. Communicate. Talking about emotions with
others can be an effective way to deal with them. So be
available to chat with kids. Listen carefully to what they have
to say. Offer comfort. Rephrase what they tell you so you can
be sure you’re on the same wavelength. Share your own
experiences (within reason) with feelings like shame, sadness,
or disappointment, including how you managed them. Be patient.
Don’t rush, or attempt to diminish children’s concerns, or
gloss over them. Sometimes children’s venting, crying, silence,
or quarreling represent their first steps toward coming to
terms with their emotions. Give them the time and space they
need to put their feelings in perspective, and to then learn to
4. Value self-reflection. Model and reiterate
the benefits of thinking things through. For example, you might
choose to think about how or why certain circumstances or
events are unfolding as they are, ways in which similar
situations might be handled in the future, and the potential
impact of different sorts of behaviors (such as antagonism or
withdrawal), or attitudes (such as anger, happiness, or worry).
Children may need relaxation, unstructured play, fewer demands,
music, or alone time in order to calm down, get a handle on
what they’re feeling, and consolidate their thoughts.
5. Encourage resilience. Help children develop
the ability to deal effectively—and creatively—with setbacks,
and also with changes and transition times. For more on this,
here. Sometimes kids have trouble accepting their
limitations. Other times situations may become rocky, and the
resultant feelings (such as nervousness, excitement, or doubt),
can be intense, or hard to manage. Children may require extra
support to know that it’s okay to have these feelings, and that
they can be reconciled.
6. Foster relationships. Good relationships
can be buoyant, whereas difficult ones can be upsetting.
Because relationships with family and friends affect the way we
feel, it’s important to encourage children to forge solid
connections, to learn about give-and-take and conflict
resolution, and to develop and use strategies that will keep
interactions on an even keel. Friendships can also be very
supportive. However, relationship-building involves social
skills. Parents can help children hone these skills by ensuring
they have ample opportunities for active play, sharing,
appreciation of diversity, consistent routines, collaboration,
role-playing, and lots of peer and family connectivity.
7. Consider self-esteem. Children often face
uncertainties, have to cope with competitive environments or
situations, or meet difficult expectations. Many kids struggle
with confidence. Help them believe in themselves. Their
self-regard is based on many factors—and these factors may be
internal, external, big, small, anticipated, unforeseen, and so
on. Reinforcement and encouragement from parents can go a long
way toward strengthening children’s self-esteem, and instilling
feelings such as optimism and relief.
8. Remember the givens. There are certain
non-negotiables that fortify children’s emotional development
and sustain their well-being. For example, safety.
Unconditional love. Sensible, fair guidance. Connectivity.
Honesty. Understanding of and respect for their feelings.
It’s important that children receive the right kinds of
supports at home, school, and within their communities in order
to foster their experiential strengths and emotional literacy.
When children’s emotional development is nurtured and
reinforced, they’re more likely to feel good about themselves.
And, those positive feelings are enabling, so kids can focus
more fully on learning, interacting, creating, and succeeding.
Helping children build upon their essential emotional
capacities will enrich their lives and empower them—motivating
them now, and into the future.
(*) Quote extracted from Being
Smart about Gifted Education by Dona Matthews and
Joanne Foster, p. 241, (2009).
(**) Quote extracted from Social
and Emotional Development in Early Intervention
by Mona Delahooke, p. 1, (2017).
For more information on topics related to this article visit
Beyond Intelligence: Secrets for Raising Happily Productive
Kids, as well as
Being Smart about Gifted
Education (by Dona Matthews and Joanne
Foster) And, for suggestions on motivating children and helping
them tap their capacities to the fullest, check out Joanne’s
Not Now, Maybe Later.
Principles from Psychology to Enhance Pre-K to 12
Teaching and Learning highlights 20 key
learning principles. The document has been prepared by the
American Psychological Association for use by educators but it
is of interest to parents, too. There are five areas of focus
related to functioning: thinking and learning, motivation,
social emotional learning, classroom management, and
assessment. Points 13, 14, and 15 address social/emotional
Mona Delahooke is a clinical and consulting pediatric
psychologist who works with families, and specializes in early
child development. Her website contains resources as well as a
blog with many interesting articles. https://www.monadelahooke.com
In Chapter 5 of Raise your Kids Without Raising
Your Voice (2006), author Sarah Chana Radcliffe
discusses emotional coaching as a means of positively affecting
children’s security and behaviors, and strengthening
parent-child bonds. To find out about other pertinent topics
within the book, and to receive daily parenting posts with tips
for family cohesiveness go to http://sarahchanaradcliffe.com.
Eileen Kennedy-Moore and Christine McLaughlin wrote a book for
children about making friends, with lots of ideas to help kids
develop social skills and meaningful peer connections.
Growing Friendships: A Kids’ Guide to Making and
Keeping Friends comes out in June 2017. In the
meantime, children can visit the Dr. Friendtastic
Children will enjoy listening to Raffi’s new song
a Breath (The Self-Reg Song). The words
and the melody are calming, designed to help children regain a
sense of well-being when they’re feeling overwhelmed or unsure
Stuart Shankar’s work on self-regulation provides a basis for
Raffi Cavoukian’s above-noted song. Dr. Shanker’s book about
self-regulation, and its relationship to experience, is
entitled Self-Reg: How to Help Your Child (and You)
Break the Stress Cycle and Successfully Engage with
Life (2016). For information about helping kids
understand stress and manage energy, see his
Nancy Kopman composes music that helps young children recognize
and embrace their feelings. Nancy’s user-friendly website
contains links to songs for rest and relaxation that can be
soothing for kids when they’re feeling over-stimulated or
Marilyn Price-Mitchell focuses on awareness, resilience,
empathy, and other core abilities. Go to the Roots of
Action website to learn about the Compass
Advantage model, and the eight attributes that are integral to
Here is an interesting
article from the New York Times on
what one school in the US is doing to help kids alleviate
stress—by using rocks. It seems to be a creative and an
effective approach to lifting spirits. (Plus there are other
great tips for parents…)
For additional articles on topics about children’s
intelligence, productivity, and creativity, check out the
column Fostering Kids’ Success under
the education banner at The Creativity