The theme of this year’s Children’s Mental Health Week is ‘Growing Together’, which encourages children (and adults) to reflect on their emotional growth and how they can support others to grow too. We share our thoughts on this important topic here in our Growing Together Blog.
We are all invested in helping the children in our lives to grow and develop in the best way possible. However, there can be many road blocks along the way that can inhibit growth from taking place. The purpose of this blog is to help support you to enable emotional growth in the children in your life and to support healthy change to take place.
The Theory of Mind
One way that we can help our children to grow emotionally is to help them to develop their understanding of others. We as human beings need to be able to understand and empathise with those around us to help predict what they might be thinking, feeling and intending on doing. Developing a theory of mind enables us to interact with others in an appropriate way, contributing to our social integration and success. Part of our developmental maturity involves learning to understand other people’s emotional state, which can be useful when we want to understand why someone might be behaving the way that they do. Emotional growth also includes understanding and empathising with others so that we can interact and engage in society.
Positive experiences in childhood increase the likelihood of positive outcomes in later life. Growth can happen at any age and it is never too late to help the children in your life to develop and grow a strong foundation for the future. Children may find it hard to understand and empathise with those around them and may need your support to gain an understanding of their world. To help children start to think about other people’s emotional and mental states you could start framing questions to your child about what another person may be thinking or feeling. Games such as ‘hide and seek’ and ‘I spy’ may provide a useful opportunity to encourage children to see things from different perspectives.
Before we can understand others, we need to understand ourselves. Many children and adults struggle with managing their own internal worlds and emotions. Emotional literacy is a fantastic way to help our children to grow and develop and to manage their own emotional states by learning to be aware of, recognise and express their feelings. Emotional literacy is a skill that can be taught, and if we can help the children in our lives to recognise and convey their emotions, then we can also help them to manage their feelings. Dr Dan Siegel, a Clinical Profession of Psychiatry at the UCLA School of Medicine and executive director of the Mindsight Institute, suggests that by noticing and labelling our emotional state we can reduce our internal anxiety and stress significantly.
What happens when we get stuck?
Emotional growth takes time and we often come across road blocks to our growth. These road blocks can include knocked confidence from a previous negative experience, trauma, fear of failure or of the unknown. There may be many times in our children’s lives when they feel that they are getting stuck or feel that something doesn’t go to plan. This is an opportunity for growth, and it is important that the children in our lives understand that successes and failures are a part of life. It is vital to help foster a sense of trying instead of focussing on achieving.
Resilience is key
Resilience is key to future success, and you can help the children in your life to build their resilience. When your child comes to you and wants you to help them solve a problem or issue, try to resist the urge to solve it for them. Instead, support your child to think about ways that they can solve the problem. The key to this is to work alongside them to help them to solve the problem. Ideas such as helping them make a list, write down the issue and use post-it notes to think of how to overcome the issue are all useful. Encouraging laughter and fun when problem solving with your child can also be very helpful for increasing wellbeing and fostering resilience.
Finally, it is important to note that connection with our children is one of the most important factors for emotional growth. Take time to be with your child, stay connected with them and decide to grow together.