Providing for their emotional needs is just as important as food and clothing.
As parents, we want our children to be happy. To achieve this, we must be sure to provide for their basic needs, such as food, health, and rest. However, our children also have basic emotional needs, which we must fill from their infancy to their adolescence.
Children need to experience their parents’ affection; it’s key so that they can develop the self-esteem and security they need in order to achieve personal autonomy. However, giving children the affection they need doesn’t mean being overly indulgent with them or overprotecting them. Children can feel loved even when they are being reprimanded for misbehavior, if they see that their parents can enforce discipline while still being affectionate. It’s important to reward their achievements, their efforts, and their good behavior, reinforcing positive ways of acting so they will be continued long-term, and disciplining to stop negative behaviors which will have a bad effect on their social and psychological development.
Ways to give your children emotional support
1. Tell them that you love them
It’s important that we find time every day to tell our children that we love them, and to let them know we’re thinking about them. It’s not enough to think about how much we love them; we need to verbalize it. Knowing that their family loves and supports them is basic for their healthy self-esteem.
2. Give them plenty of time
Not only do we need to be near them every day; we need to dedicate time to them when they ask us for help or when they want to play with us. When it comes to the time we spend with our children, quality is important, but it isn’t a substitute for quantity.
3. Help them manage their emotions
Our children have to learn how to manage their emotions, starting when they are toddlers. We have to understand their fears, their problems, and their feelings, so we can help them. Normally, they learn how to handle their feelings from their parents’ example. We should set a good example for them by the way we react to obstacles and difficulties. We cannot expect our children not to lose their tempers if we lose our composure at the slightest provocation.
4. Establish boundaries and rules at home
Children need to grow up knowing the rules and boundaries they are expected to observe. They need to know if they are not allowed to play with their tablet for four hours in a row, or to eat in front of the television. They need to know how much freedom they have and what their role is in the family. Starting as soon as they are able, they need to have chores and responsibilities in the home proportionate to their age, such as cleaning up their room or setting the table. Boundaries and rules are important for their development and for getting along as a family.
5. Parents are always parents
It’s very important that our children see us as mothers and fathers. We aren’t their friends, much less their servants. They need to know that we aren’t at their total disposition, nor can they treat us like their school classmates. Exercising parental authority is necessary and healthy within a family, and it gives children security and preparation for living in society.
6. Always use positive reinforcement
Another of our roles as parents is to support our children, always. We have to appreciate and acknowledge their efforts in daily life. We shouldn’t only rebuke them for doing wrong, but also let them know when they’ve done well. Family support is fundamental for their development as responsible people.
Our children’s emotional needs are as important as their food and health, and the degree to which their affective needs are filled will affect their mental health. As mothers and fathers, we are key players in the development of our children’s affective security throughout their childhood and adolescence.