Emotional Well-Being: Every Child’s Right

As parents, we really, really want to get it right. For over two decades, we are involved in our children’s lives with an intensity like no other, emotionally invested in steering them wisely and guiding them safely. We embrace responsibility for their welfare and give countless hours to seeking the best way to meet it. But it isn’t easy learning on the job, and we don’t always know in advance what lies ahead. One place even the most conscientious parent can get blind-sided is on the tricky path to cultivating emotional well-being.

We are living in an anxious time, with dangers and divisions we couldn’t have predicted during our own growing up years. Stressors cultural and social confront our children, as do increasing academic pressures. We can’t make the world perfect for our kids, but there is much we can do to make home a sanctuary: a place to recharge, refuel, discuss, cuddle and share. Creating that  refuge can go a long way to giving kids a lasting gift: emotional well-being.

Our children encounter disappointment and pain, no matter how tenderly we wish we could spare them. Even in our own community, they may face bullying, peer pressure, alcohol and drug abuse, and anxiety. Despite strong resources and networks, we’ve had to grapple with the devastating effects of suicide on families in our community, and by proximity, on our watching children. Even for those with no personal experience of tragedy, suicidal references are prevalent in popular culture via film, TV and social media, all of which are consumed by our kids. We can’t turn off the culture. But we can and should encourage kids to develop the resilience they need to cope with hard things and emerge stronger.

According to the Child Mind Institute, one of the best protective factors against depression and suicide is “strong connections,” a key component of the NYC-Parents in Action’s triple mantra: “Be Involved, Be Informed, Be Connected.” Connections nurture strength: “Partly because [kids] feel loved and supported, and partly because they have people to turn to when they’re struggling . . .” https://childmind.org/article/teen-suicides-risk-factors/ . Start by setting aside a regular time at home to talk about your child’s day, his fears, her questions, their worries. Make connections with other parents, too; compare notes, share experiences, offer support.

Parents can shore up their children’s emotional strength by staying informed. PIA has put together an expert roster of panelists from the Jed Foundation (JED), moderated by John MacPhee (Executive Director, JED) to bring you our Fall 2017 Seminar, “Emotional Well-Being Begins at Home” on Wednesday evening, October 25th. https://parentsinaction.org/event/?ee=97  We strongly encourage you to attend, listen, ask and learn.

Learning to create that space apart for your child, where the foundation for resilience can be laid, begins with information and grows with understanding. Give them that gift.

Melanie Wells
PIA Website Editor

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