As a pediatrician, I find myself in a unique position, which allows me to participate in teaching emotional well-being from a very early age. I enjoy spending time educating parents on how to raise confident, resilient children with a healthy self-esteem. I am passionate about helping blended families struggling to find their new balance. I make it a point to give parents the time they need to talk about their family dynamics and stressors within the household that may be affecting my patient. This allows me time to focus on not only the patient, but outside factors that may cause feelings of loneliness and low self-esteem. Below are a few ways in which you can help improve the emotional health of your child.

Children need LOVE.

Unconditional love. Saying I love you often, even when children’s behavior is not ideal, is extremely important. Kids need to know that they are loved.

Children need to see parents who are in control of their own emotions.

It is completely normal for tired or frustrated parents to raise their voices. As a parent, I must take a deep breath, re-set myself to remain in control of my emotions and then respond to difficult behavior. When I do have trouble controlling my tone or raising my voice, I own up to my actions and speak to my child about what happened.  I say to him, “Mommy was frustrated and raised her voice at you and that wasn't what I wanted to do, but mommies make mistakes too.” Then I apologize and tell them I will try to do better. Keep your word to maintain trust.   

Children need to understand their emotions and know that is OK to feel them.

When I had my daughter, there were times when I could see my son becoming jealous. He was five years old and just became a big brother. I explained to him what jealousy was and that it was a normal emotion and “ok” for him to feel that way. When he would start to act out, I would ask him questions like, “Are you feeling sad and would like more of mommy's attention?” He would most often answer “yes.” I used this as a learning opportunity to let him know that instead of getting mad, he could verbalize to me, “Mommy I’m feeling left out. Can we spend time together?” This helped him understand that he didn’t need to act out to gain my attention and that he could ask for what he needed instead of feeling angry and resentful.


Children need to be shown acceptable ways to handle their emotions.  

If your child is screaming and throwing things when they are angry, and you would like to see different behavior, wait until they are calm and teach them other methods to control their anger. There are several books and resources available to help parents and children learn techniques previously only taught in counseling. Two of my favorites include, Ninja Life Hacks by Nhin and Train Your Dragon series by Herman.  They are written for to understand and introduce breathing techniques and other ways of controlling their emotions. 

Children need to be shown LOVE and empathy when they have lost their ability to control their emotions.  

This one can be very difficult.  You may have a small person telling you that they hate you, or even hitting at you. You must remember this is a little person with big emotions. It isn't personal, most of the time they are doing the best they can to release their feelings and emotions.  


Children learn what they LIVE.

When children live with a support system that is loving and nurturing which provides boundaries and constructive criticism in an age-appropriate manner, they thrive. Sometimes parents seem to rely upon the past and how they were parented. They repeat history by making the same mistakes, as their parents did, with their own children. Unfortunately, similar destructive patterns follow generation after generation.  If you look back to your childhood and identify that there were parenting techniques that have had a negative impact on you it would be good to reach out to a therapist for yourself. 


Children need to learn to respect boundaries and voice their boundaries.  

This means that age-appropriate repercussions need to be established for when a child is overstepping boundaries. For a young child, saying you lost privileges for something all day long may be a little too harsh. They should lose a toy or screen time for a specific amount of time appropriate for their age. It is also good to teach children it is ok for them to have boundaries of their own. This helps when friends at school are being unkind. Teaching your child that it is not ok for their friends to treat them poorly is very important.


Children need to be children and not involved in adult matters.  

It is essential for parents to avoid discussing adult relationship issues in front of them. They are children and should not be included or expected to handle adult problems.   


Children who are exhibiting signs of distress need help NOW not later. 

You can contact your pediatrician if you notice any signs of distress in your child. Possible signs of distress may include children who are overly hyper, have poor impulse control, low frustration tolerance, hesitant to try new things, angry/aggressive, regressing in milestones, have severe temper tantrums, perform poorly at school, have excessive shyness or overly anxious. Do not hesitate to take your child to counselors or play therapy. Explore books that teach you how to help your children. Also know that emotional well-being is a relevant topic and there are books written for kids in every age group to help them along the way.


Children need advocates.  

If you know someone is bullying your child, whether it be a kid at school or adult figure, go to bat for them. Bullying can be experienced in many ways. If someone talks down to them, calls them names, shames them, etc., it is your responsibility to help. You can speak to your child’s pediatrician about counseling or therapy as an option to help your child work through some of these feelings. Document what your child tells you and keep in mind you don’t want to speak negative about another child or adult figure, since this too, can be hurtful to the child or have a negative impact. Sometimes talking generically through examples about similar circumstances and how certain types of behavior are unacceptable can help.