Emoticons: digital icons, such as :), used to express emotions in text. While emoticons express emotions on flat surfaces, emotions are not as simplistic or as easily understood in 3D. They are complex and develop inwardly based on many factors in a person's upbringing, culture and personality. Emotional health develops in childhood and parents contribute to it greatly.
Over the next several months, I will discuss the foundational components of emotional health in children: building blocks. These create real emotional health and are far more than an icon in a message. These establish emotional well-being and must be learned in the early years to ensure emotional health for a lifetime.
Building Block #1: Sense of Security
"Bill me sumpin'," he asked over and over again. We built forts, towers, chairs, stuffed animal corals and more. At 1-year-old, my son was beginning to learn valuable lessons for his future emotional health by playing with a block set. It seems impossible, but it's not. He was learning he could trust us to take care of him. Caring for his physical needs the prior year taught him, "my parents will not let me get hurt and my requests will be answered with my safety in mind." He was secure in trying new things — a large new block set gifted for his first birthday — because he trusted us to guard his safety.
Dr. Jim Taylor, writer at Psychology Today and author of the book, "Your Children Are Listening," writes, "The first message of security involves your children feeling securely attached to you. The operative word with attachment is trust. Simply put, secure attachment develops in children who learn that they can rely on their parents to meet their physical and emotional needs...This attachment isn't just important for you and your children to develop healthy relationships...The perceptions they develop about their relationship with you, the emotions they feel toward and from you, and the experiences your children have with you become the template for relationships that they will develop in the future."
"Nothing can bring a real sense of security into the home except true love." - Billy Graham
We built, he knocked down. We built, he knocked down. We built, he knocked down. And so on and so on. He never once feared he would get hurt. It never crossed his mind blocks can injure. He totally trusted that our interactions were safe. Our simple, and yes repetitive, and yes, at times, monotonous (he was a beautifully persistent child), construction projects served his emotional development; it enhanced his sense of security in us, thereby, developing his trust in our relationship.
Parenting guarantees some failures and "could have done better's," but get this foundational block in place early in your children's lives. An early sense of security/trust is vital to trusting more and different people later. A sense of security produces healthy, confident children and adults. Your actions, precautions and attentiveness may seem monotonous and inconsequential, but in reality, they build emotional stability. Cement this block in place by being trustworthy.
Elaine Stone, mother of three, lives in Spotsylvania County.
Probable Undermines to a Sense of Security
How do we give kids the roots they need to hold on through storms?
Keep Financial Discussions Private.
Kids don't need to know if you're struggling financially. It's enough to say, "No, I'm sorry, that doesn't fit in our budget." Kids shouldn't worry about a roof over their heads or food on the table. Give your kids a sense of security by taking care of it.
Keep Disagreements Private.
Kids should feel secure that their parents have a stable, loving relationship. Work out disagreements behind closed doors. Fill your home with love, not arguments that threaten your children's safety and security.
Retain Normalcy in a Crisis.
Every family will weather storms together. Remember, you are the rock children cling to in a storm. Showing strength in the face of adversity gives the security children need. Discuss your fears privately. Children are not equipped to handle adult situations.
Have Back-up Plan
Plan well for emergencies. This is what insurance policies and savings accounts are for. Make sure your financial house is in order to give kids greater security.
Don't Cry on Your Child's Shoulder.
If Mom and Dad crumble in a crisis, who will take care of the kids? It's your job to be your child's security blanket, not the other way around. Your kids are counting on you to provide reassurance and stable ground to stand on.
Adapted from Giving Your Child a Sense of Security By Jaipi Sixbear