Life is full of surprise and challenges. At times everyone experience distress and unhappiness. Whilst we can’t protect our children from all of life’s difficulties, we can do a number of things to help them develop positive ways of coping with stress and to become contented, self-confident individuals.
A warm, constant and affectionate relationship with a parent or carer is crucial to the development of a child’s resilience. Children need to know that they are loved, through both words and actions. Spending playful one-to-one time with your child allows your child to feel special and loved. It is these experiences that develop your child’s self-esteem.
Good communication between a child and a parent is vital in developing a child’s emotional resilience and self-confidence. Establishing positive patterns of family communication when children are young will make it easier to talk about
difficult things as they get older. Talking with very young children may include observations about the things you see at the park or on the way to the shops, an activity they or you are engaged in, or simply sharing a nursery rhyme or book.
As they get older, you may begin to ask your child more about their day. Whatever their age, it is important to set aside some special time each day where you can give them your full attention.
To communicate effectively with your child it is important to develop your active listening skills. When you listen carefully to what your child is saying they will feel respected and valued. Active listening is particularly difficult when you are tired and will require lots of concentration. If you are not sure about what your child is saying, ask for clarification but try to avoid interrupting, or rushing to respond. Instead give yourself time to really hear what they are saying.
Children need consistent, clear and firm boundaries and family rules to feel secure, but it is important that they are disciplined in a way that does not undermine their self-esteem. Rather than correcting behaviour with anger and physical punishment, be calm and assertive. Instead of criticizing the child in general, let them know exactly what it is they have done wrong. Along with discipline should come frequent praise of things they have done well.
Children’s friendships play an important part in developing their self-esteem and are key to their long-term happiness. Children need to spend time with friends to learn how to relate to people of their own age and to others outside the family. Friendships teach children how to cooperate and connect with others.
In order to build strong relationships and solve problems, children need to know
how to express, understand and control their emotions. Children need encouragement to express their emotions. Parents can help develop their child’s emotional strength and literacy by teaching them how to recognize and name their feelings.
Try not to ignore your child’s questions. By allowing your child to ask questions and answering them as openly as you can, your child will feel safer and be more likely to express their thoughts.
If you are aware that your child is experiencing a negative feeling, it is helpful to let them know you understand how they feel by saying something like “It sounds like you’re feeling really sad right now.” Comfort and reassure your child, and help them to move on from the issue that is troubling them. Make sure they know that they can return to talking about it at any point if they need to.
To develop an emotionally healthy attitude, children need to be around adults who model these attitudes. If a parent is negative about their own abilities, their child may begin to adopt these attitudes. It is important for parents to look after their own self-esteem.
It is important to be respectful of what your child says to you, rather than acting as if it is silly or boring. Don’t dismiss their comments or questions, often children have a very different idea of what it is important to what we do. Try to avoid criticism, as this can discourage your child from talking to you.
Ensuring children have a nutritious diet is critical to their overall wellbeing. It reinforces lifelong eating habits that help children to grow, reach their full potential and adopt a healthy lifestyle. A poor diet can lead to health problems such as obesity and can also contribute to bad behaviour.