Want to raise emotionally mature, self-aware, happy kids?
According to clinical psychologist Dr Kenneth Barish, of Cornell University, regular positive reinforcement and honest, emotional connection are key.
As he writes in Psychology Today:
“Children learn invaluable lessons from moments of repair. They learn that, although it is not always easy, moments of anxiety, sadness and anger are moments and can be repaired. Disappointments are disappointments, not catastrophes, and bad feelings do not last forever.”
It’d be hard to find a parent who doesn’t see the value in reinforcing those feelings for their children.
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But finding time for these crucial moments in an already busy family life can feel overwhelming – a fact that makes the next part of Kenneth’s research even more appealing.
Take stock at bedtime
He goes on to say that great results can be achieved in just ten minutes a day, with bedtime offering a relaxed and intimate moment to take stock and iron out any pressures or tense moments from the day (more on that later).
Can’t do a bedtime thing? Maybe you have lots of kids to attend to, or perhaps you work nights. No problem!
In this article, neuroscientist Jaak Panksepp says the same results can be achieved by connecting with your child for a total of 10 minutes, in small increments across the day.
- Three minutes in the morning before they get up.
- Three minutes as soon as they, or you, come through the door on the way home.
- Three minutes snuggling before bedtime.
Jaak says these are opportune times because your child is cycling between different aspects of their day, and that makes them more receptive.
Or, keep them topped up through the day
These little top-ups will help them get through the day, with you as their emotional root – a place of comfort and stability, no matter what happens.
Regardless of the time of day, Kenneth says it’s important that parents use the time to open up about their own day and crucially, apologise for their own cranky or ‘bad’ behaviour.
It demonstrates to our children that even when something negative happens, there’s always a safe space to chat through it and move on.
“In these moments, children begin to develop a more balanced, less all-or-nothing perspective on the disappointments and frustrations in their lives. As a result, they will be better able to regulate their emotions – they will be less urgent in their expressions of distress, less insistent in their demands, and able to think more constructively about how to solve emotional problems.”