How to promote social and emotional health in youth

Life is stressful, no matter what your age, and kids don’t have the same experience dealing with unpleasant emotions as adults do. How do we help them?

We may not have the ability to eliminate these challenges, but we can teach children to understand and self-regulate the emotions they experience. We sat down with Dr. Emily Gries from Sanford Research in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, to find out how parents can encourage emotional development in their children.

consider others’ viewpoints

When you start promoting positive emotional health in youth, Dr. Graese says, “any activity that promotes perspective-taking can be really important.” This can be embedded in many different games, such as Simon Says, Tag or Follow the Leader.

Children often absorb this information earlier than we expect. By age 6, children have the ability to see that they have different points of view than other people. Around the age of 10 and 11, they develop a sense of empathy.

Early perspective in children gives them the ability to take a step back. Instead of coping in inappropriate ways (such as eating unhealthy, acting out, etc.), it can help them understand their role in situations and better overcome challenges.

communication is key

It can be difficult for parents to handle misbehavior or temper tantrums. Use these challenges as learning opportunities for both you and your child. After this incident, Dr. Gries recommends taking turns with your child to discuss in age-appropriate language:

  • how did he react
  • what emotions did they feel
  • if they could change their answer

For example, if your child is upset, say something like, “I understand why you are upset. That was tough. Maybe next time, instead of throwing things down, we’ll spend some time alone, talk to someone else, or count to 10. By doing this you validate your child’s feelings and emotions, but also teach them proper techniques to manage and calm their moods.

“For some kids, it’s easier to give them time to themselves first,” Dr. Grice said. “After being emotionally calm, some children can quickly overcome their feelings.”

Make sure how and when you talk through the situation based on your child’s temperament. There is no set time for when to do this, just as long as they are calm, can think clearly, and the event is recent in their memory.

Find Your Family Balance

Extracurricular activities provide kids with countless benefits, including exposure to diversity, opportunities to learn, and most importantly, fun!

However, it is important to remember quality over quantity. As caregivers, you want to provide your child with every opportunity available to you. Yet when children are running from one thing to the next, they can easily become overwhelmed.

Even with her own children, Dr. Gries says, “I can see that they need time away from their peer groups when they come home from day care all day , me-time, family-time, or simply a less hectic environment. Moving children from one chaotic environment to another can cause an emotional breakdown, especially when they are young. We know the importance of these activities but it is finding a balance, and it really is different for each child.

Trust your gut, and remember, you know your child best. If you’re seeing signs of fatigue, use it as a teachable moment to explain to your child that it’s okay to stop and take a break when needed. This could mean skipping exercise, missing a night out with friends, or stopping an activity altogether.

Dr. Gries suggests, especially for young children, to “set aside evening and weekend times as family time.” Remember, your family balance may be very different from others’, and that’s okay. It is important to discover your unique balance in emotional health.

be sure to follow

Every day, children experience many feelings and emotions that affect their mood, and the result is not always a good one. As caregivers, it’s important to set an example in how you handle fluctuating moods and behavior.

There’s no black and white answer, and it may look different for every family, but what’s important is that you follow through. Say what you mean and mean what you say. Talk with your child about strategies they can use to help motivate and manage their moods. When tantrums happen, remind them of these strategies.

Also, remember to be a positive role model and practice these techniques on your own.

“It’s an emotional response. We all have that,” Dr. Griese said. Let’s talk about the process of managing

Finding the balance of your family and living up to expectations isn’t always an easy task. Trust your instincts and know that today’s lessons are helping to mold and enhance social-emotional skills that will last a lifetime.

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Posted in Children’s, Family Medicine, Healthy Living, Parenting, Research

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