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Raising Joyful Kids

This morning, we got up a bit earlier, my younger daughter was going to get an immunization at an hospital quite a drive from our house, so she and her dad left a lot earlier than usual in order to beat traffic.

As they left, my older daughter sat next to me and began to cry, I miss my sister already, who’s going to play with me, run around the house and all.

My initial instinct was to shove her away and say, but she just left a few seconds ago and you are going to school in an hour, don’t be a baby, you’ll see her soon, blablabla. But then, I remembered… Our emotions are part of us and in order for kids not to become broken adults throwing tantrums like a kid whose gummy bear was taken away at the slightest opposition, we must teach them how to recognize and utilize all the range of emotions they feel.

Let them cry, let them express pain, loss, joy, excitement, disappointment, everything!

Let them talk about it, don’t wish it away, don’t ssshh it down. The truth is it never really goes away that way, it just piles up for the child to find, figure out and fix in future.

I’m not suggesting that you leave a child sulking forever, I’m saying, guide them through it. Do they miss a friend? Acknowledge it, let them talk about it. Do they feel disappointed or cheated? Don’t just say you’re a big boy, why are you crying? They may need some time and patience to walk through some emotions and it’s fine.

And what if your kids no longer express emotions because, for some reason, their emotions have been suppressed for a long time, there still is hope.

You can start with these tips:
1. Ask them questions about their experiences, be part of their lives, notice when their emotions change, seek to know what the reason is. You’ll be surprised there’s a lot you can do to help.

2. Be open about your own experiences, it’s not a taboo to cry out of joy or pain, when they see you tired, excited, disappointed, etc and see how you handle those situations, they are learning huge life lesson. Note however, that this must be kept age appropriate.

3. Share your childhood stories, I find my kids brighten up when I share my stories especially the ones they can relate to, it helps them know they are not alone in whatever emotion they are feeling and that they can find comfort in you.

4. Give them perspective, clearly you have walked these paths before and with hindsight, you know what may likely happen. Sharing this perspective helps them gain wisdom and enables them make great life choices.

Remember, children have their own struggles and challenges. Cast your mind back to when you were a child, do you remember things that worried you? Do you remember how important they were to you? I know now you look back and think “what was the big deal about that after all :)”, but in that moment, they were huge. Guess what, they are walking through their own life experiences now and it is just as real.

As a parent, your job is to be there, creating that solid foundation of openness, trust, no shame, just love 💙

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