Would you like to plant the seeds so your children have the skills and resilience to support their psychological wellbeing for life?
Parents and early care-givers are uniquely placed to provide healthy messages for emotional wellness for our children for the rest of their lives. This is an enormously empowering and exciting stage of life, and supporting parents with this is my mission. There are simple things we can do every day as parents to promote a healthy emotional lifestyle.
What is a healthy emotional lifestyle?
Embedding tools and strategies for lifelong emotional wellness into day to day life is what it takes to nurture a positive ’emotional lifestyle’. Just like a healthy physical lifestyle where we think about nutrition, exercise, and enjoying nature in the great outdoors for long-term physical health, we can cultivate a healthy emotional lifestyle for our children and families too. Nurturing a positive ’emotional lifestyle’, is about:
1.Ensuring children grow up with warm messages of love and acceptance from parents and care-givers that boost self-esteem, positive self-regard, and self-respect. Children need to know these key things from an early age from their care-givers:
- They are loved no matter what
- They are loved for who they are
- They matter, and their needs are valid
2. A healthy emotional lifestyle is also about cultivating healthy ways to think. As one example, it’s not uncommon for some thinking styles to lean towards an anxious style, where it is easy to think of the worst, to fear something, and blow things out of proportion. Thinking styles can have a huge impact on how we feel, and even on our mental health. As parents, we can support our children with positive ways of thinking that support a balanced outlook, with a realistic dimension to anxiety or worry.
3. A healthy emotional lifestyle requires us as parents to support our children with emotional labelling: Identifying what our feelings are, and being able to communicate these. Understanding our emotions, labelling them, and managing them with self-awareness, are fantastic life skills for the next generation.
Research suggests that the very act of labelling our emotions correctly can help lower their potency, and their negative impact on our mood and wellness. Through trying to make sense of our emotional pain (Is this anger? Is this anxiety? Is this jealousy? What am I feeling, where and why?), we are taming the part of the brain which activates when we are triggered, and which creates intense feelings. It’s never too late to start bringing these concepts to enhance family life, and I believe it’s never too early either.
4. A healthy emotional lifestyle is about applying techniques to calm down when we’re unhappy, stressed or triggered – this is a process known as ‘emotional regulation’. This is one of the biggest challenges for parents; dealing with tantrums and discord.
What is conscious connection and why will it help my family?
Conscious connection is a two-step process where:
1.Parents pause, and consciously connect to their own state of mind.
2.With greater control over their own state of mind, parents can then consciously connect with their child, in an objective and non-judgemental way, to provide the emotional attunement which they need.
By bringing conscious awareness to those difficult moments when feelings are triggered we can pause, zoom out, connect with ourselves as adults, and try really hard to be objective in the moment, on what’s going on and why.
It’s through conscious connection with ourselves in the first instance, that we can bring the heat down, to then consciously connect with our children. We can use moments to teach our children important life lessons for example about patience, entitlement, empathy, and kindness, to name a few.
Conscious connection isn’t easy so self-care is a must for parents
As we all know, it’s not always easy as parents to zoom out and maintain perspective when our children trigger us. We’re human too, and parenting can feel extremely challenging: the sleep deprivation, the constant noise: it can feel non-stop. I have three children currently 2, 6 and 8, and it’s not infrequent for me to feel like the luckiest person for being so blessed, and at the same time, to feel out of my depth, and challenged beyond anything else has ever challenged me before.
The first step in conscious connection, is for parents to ensure that they ring fence time for their own self care, their own emotional wellness and psychological wellbeing. This is paramount. There is overwhelming scientific evidence supporting the concept that positive emotional health in parents can support the long-term psychological development of children. It’s much harder to remain connected to our children, if we’re exhausted and burnt out ourselves. Connected parenting requests a level of self-care for parents and this is an essential pre-requisite.
Conscious connection is about not being perfect
It can be really hard for us as parents to remain happy and connected, if we try to be perfect. If we strive for flawless family life and create a standard which is so high that we are constantly on our toes trying to be perfect, it is much harder to be consciously connected to our authentic selves or our children.
I see all too often, that the unfloundering love and commitment for children, can create a dynamic where parents are constantly aspiring for perfection, and making it much harder to be present and connected with their children. Yes, this comes from a good place; a place of gold, a place of love, and place which states that we want to best for our children.
It’s definitely possible to create an optimum loving space for our children which doesn’t require perfection. In fact, if we try to be perfect, I believe we will make it harder to consciously connect with ourselves and our children. So, my view is to forget being perfect. Try your best, expect things won’t always go to plan with children (there are too many moving parents and unpredictable wobbles).
We might like control, predictability and order. By all means aspire, but with a realistic mindset that things can’t always go as planned irrespective of how hard we try. The concept of the ‘good enough mother’ is well regarded in psychotherapy. It is much easier to stay happy and connected without the pressure of perfect parenting.
How can I help?
Through conscious connected parenting techniques, I provide connection coaching for families to support the parent-child connection, for emotional wellness. I support families to ensure their children grow up with messages that boost self-esteem, positive self-regard, and self-respect. I also advise parents in modelling the art of seeing things form multiple perspectives, which can empower children with an agile mindset.
This is particularly important as the pandemic has created unprecedented pressure on family systems. One takeaway message from this experience is that we don’t know when things might change and when. What we can do, however, is practice and cultivate a flexible and agile mindset, with resilience to problem solve and adapt.
Using scientific insights, I provide Brain-Based Connection® Coaching programmes for parents which are designed to:
- Enhance connection with children
- Boost resilience and emotional intelligence in children
- Improve emotional well-being for children and parents
- Empower dynamics where family life becomes fertile ground for learning life-long emotional skills
- Help parents to embed compassion, empathy and kindness within their children.
My aim is to support emotional wellness in the family through developing techniques and strategies that strengthen understanding empathy and wellness in day to day family life. As an emotional intelligence coach with a background in medicine, psychiatry and psychotherapy, and as an award winning academic, it is clear to me that sustainable mental wellness can stem from early healthy messages from our caregivers, which can support sustainable self-esteem and resilience.