Creative Child

Three New Year’s Promises to Build Relationships with Your Kids

by Rebecca Eanes

A brand new year is just around the corner. Many of us make promises for the new year – eating healthier, getting fit, finishing (or starting) a project, etc. This year, let’s prioritize our relationships and we’ll see a more joyful and fulfilling year. Our relationships with our children are among the most important in our lifetimes, so why not make these simple promises to bring you closer than ever before.

1. Say at least one encouraging phrase to each child every day. It’s easy to fall into the negative habit of criticizing wrongs and pointing out every mistake our kids make, but negative criticism like this actually hinders cognitive function. Hearing criticism produces feelings of anxiety, guilt, and fear, making their brains stressed and limiting their ability to improve. However, positive emotions (like those than come from hearing encouraging words), actually enhance mental abilities, making children (and adults) more creative, cooperative, and flexible. Encouraging your children daily will have a huge impact on their emotional well-being and it will improve their behavior.

2. Support them through their negative emotions. As parents, we love to see our children positive and happy. Negative emotions such as sadness or anger are sometimes tough for us to accept. It can be tempting to minimize how our children are feeling in an effort to get them back to happy where we feel more comfortable, but children need to learn that all feelings are part of the human experience and they must know how to work through them. When we minimize their feelings with phrases like “Oh, it’s not that bad” or “You’re making too big a deal out of this” or “Go to your room until you’re ready to be nice,” we may inadvertently be teaching them negative habits, like stuffing their feelings. To really teach children emotional intelligence, we need to learn to hold space for them to feel sad or angry without it negatively affecting us to the point that we are unhelpful to them. Listen and empathize, even if it doesn’t feel like it should be a big deal to you. Show acceptance and understanding while helping them integrate their emotional right brain and their logical left brain. (See this article for more on integration.) When they feel safe showing us their full range of feelings, they will feel closer to us, and us to them.

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