Raising An Emotionally Healthy Child

8 Practical Steps to Parenting Confident, Centered Kids

by Cathy Holloway Hill

Preparing for life begins long before school starts for children – it begins as soon as your baby can walk.  From spills and messes to suits and dresses, your precious angel is never too young to begin learning about life.  Children have a unique ability to be able to handle tumultuous times and emotional roller coasters and still come out on top.  Here are eight of my strategies that are critical for raising healthy children to maneuver through the twists and turns of life.

Take Care of You: Before you can raise a healthy child, you must be healthy.  Parenting requires a lot of energy and stamina and is always a demanding, yet rewarding, job.  It is important to understanding that taking care of you does not mean you are selfish or self-centered.  Instead, you are being smart and protective.  Focusing on your needs as an individual, as well as you and your partner’s needs as a couple, will ensure you are providing a healthy environment for your child.  Children are observant at all times.  Never underestimate their intuition and ability to perceive love, peace, and healthy surroundings.  Self-love for children begins when they observe love from a healthy parental relationship.

Provide Safety and Trust: To be cared for and cared about are basic to our well-being and growth.  Your children deserve to have their basic survival needs of food, shelter, and safety met.  You are the one they will turn to when they need help, support, and advice.  You must earn their trust and respect as well as require it from them.  The more stable and responsible you are the safer and more comfortable your children feel.

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Be a Role Model: This may the most critical strategy of all.  Oftentimes, we have not matured or released toxic emotions from our past.  When we get caught up in drama in our lives, it affects children in a negative manner.  Whether you are engaging in an emotional painful debate with your spouse, best friend, or family member, it is damaging to your child’s emotional well-being.  Observing a parent in an emotional upheaval sends the wrong signals and messages to your child.  Children will immediately perceive that they have, somehow, caused the drama.  They take cues from you, especially at a young age.  What is your behavior telling them?  If it is not aligned with the values you want to pass on, change your behavior.  Be aware of your attitude and actions at all times.  Assess whether you react or respond to situations.  If you have unresolved issues with anger, impatience, or forgiveness, take steps immediately to address it, erase it and replace it.

Build Your Child’s Self-Esteem: Your relationship with your child is vital to the development of a strong sense of themselves.  Bullying is running rampant in our schools and society.  You have the power to help combat the possibility of a bully penetrating your child’s spirit and emotional well-being by ensuring that they feel valued at home.  Always demonstrate that you regard them as a valuable person in your life as well as their own.  Be a compassionate parent by paying attention and listening to your children and to their needs and concerns.  Often, they are giving you strong signals about how they feel, what bothers them or makes them feel happy.  Encourage them to communicate their feelings to you, and be open to communicating effectively back to them.  Say what you mean, and mean what you say.  Do not procrastinate or tell them that you will do something if you don’t intend to do it. Keeping an open line of healthy communication will significantly reduce the possibility of your child falling into the growing population of emotional distraught and depressed adolescents in our nation. 

Promote Self-Confidence:  This list shows how we can all lift children up so they learn how to walk tall themselves.

  • Demonstrate that you love and value them

  • Foster healthy and responsible risk taking

  • Be available to talk and to listen

  • Applaud their victories, large and small

  • Support them through challenges and setbacks

  • Encourage them to set goals

  • Nurture their talents, abilities, dreams, and goals

  • Offer praise and encouragement often

  • Support who they are and not what you wish them to be

  • Help them develop coping skills to handle life challenges

  • Teach them to be in charge and to make good decisions

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Set Expectations and Consequences: All children need a sense of direction and structure.  Providing structure helps a child clarify and make sense of their world and feel more secure about their place in it.  Keep a family schedule as best as you can.  This offers more predictability and security in their world.  Setting limits is an important parenting task that helps children function at their best.  The ideal plan is to be proactive rather than reactive.  Develop clear guidelines, boundaries and expectations, but make them reasonable.  Make sure that they are consistent and your children understand what is expected of them.  If necessary, have them repeat the guidelines so there is no confusion or misunderstanding.  Your goal is to help your child choose acceptable behaviors and learn self-control.  It is not just about compliance and bending to your whim or will.  You are forever teaching correct action and behavior.  When you disapprove of a certain behavior, focus on the behavior and not the child.  Explain it in a manner that is consistent with their age.  Let them know that your love for them is not diminished and you don’t disapprove of who they are.  Teach them how to do things differently to better serve themselves and others.

Instill Healthy Values: Understanding the value of family, friends, and others requires understanding who you are and what you stand for.  Teach your child, at an early age, to develop good habits regarding nutrition, exercise, rest, and play.  Practice health enhancing activities because what you do is what they will imitate.

Foster Empathy and Cooperation: You want your child to live and thrive comfortably in a community and a world that is respectful and honors differences.  Their appreciation of themselves and others will help to develop this process.  Encourage your child to play an active role in their community that favorably impacts others and the environment.  By doing so, they are learning to be more responsible for their neighborhoods, communities, and the nation as a whole.

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Cathy Holloway Hill is author of Lies, Love & Life and host of the Internet-based radio show "Living by Design." She is also founder of C. Holloway Hill Enterprises, an international consulting, training and professional speaking firm focusing on personal and professional growth and effectiveness. Hill has a bachelor’s degree in computer science, a master’s degree in psychology and numerous life coaching certifications. After 25 years in the corporate world, she walked away from her successful career at IBM in order to pursue her passion – helping people live happier lives.

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