7 Resources to help strengthen your approach to a child’s emotional expression and health
From the first humans living alongside wild animals and scouring the planet for food, to parenting through The Great Depression without the means or ability to shelter children from the starvation and homelessness, it has always been hard to be a parent. Today’s world is much different by many standards, and some may even say more difficult than ever before. In the age of technology, we find out about news across the world as it happens. No one is immune to tragedy, sadly, and none of us are ever prepared to deal with it as it trickles down through our family unit.
So what do we do? Should we shelter, and hope their innocence extends through forever? Do we teach and expose them from an early age? Or should we raise them to understand the plethora of all human emotions, sometimes overwhelming and extremely uncomfortable? What is right?
This is something we faced recently, and frankly, I still don’t have the perfect answer… But I do know what I find to be helpful for my own sons, aged two and six. The toddler doesn’t understand, or know, true sadness. He lives in the moment; tragedy is not getting what he wants, like when mommy has to wash his favorite “choo-choo” cup. To my oldest, sadness (and every other emotion) is more complex. He has lost friends, been to funerals, and lost cherished family pets; he has heard tragic news broadcast in 30 second blurbs and been left to feel open, confused and sad, questioning why and how these things happen. This in turn, leads me to wonder how to coach him through those emotions.
Our society, so focused on the outward impression of fitness, sure doesn’t talk much about emotional health. I, myself, was exposed to tragedy at a young age, left to meander through the feelings, thoughts, and questions it stirred up for me without guidance. My parents did their best, but they were raised in an era and with the mindset that you didn’t have time to talk about feelings. You just kept going. As soon as I had kids, I knew I had to learn to do it differently. There are, thankfully, also many resources available in our technological age, for any and every parent learning to shape their child’s emotional health.
Shaping Our Kids Empathetic Response
Children are, by nature, empathetic. We know it is natural for kids to question, wonder, and feel deeply. Our kids are just beginning their journey through emotional regulation and mental well-being, so we all have an opportunity to help shape what that evolves into. They slowly begin to understand at deeper and more significant levels, and those feelings are as valid as they are hard to explain and work through. But I found, with some help, with some books for me to read, some for me to read to the kids, some deep thinking on my end, that we can learn how to help our children navigate tragedy.
Many tragic scenarios will never make sense: the inexplicable and absolutely devastating moments where we wish we lived like hermits-protected from tragedy through exclusion. Navigating the sheer magnitude of tragedy our kids are exposed to is the new challenge of our modern era.
The following links are what I found to be most helpful with tips and tools to do all of the above, and to raise emotionally healthy kiddos.
- 12 Children’s Books on Death and Dying (with reviews and age level advisories):
- Helping Kids Feel Safe After a Tragic Event
- Helping Kids Cope in a Time of Sadness
- Answering Questions Kids Have About Death
- Religious based guide to explain loss and emotions to children
- Helping Your Autistic Child Make Sense of Tragedy
- Compassion Matters: Emotions and Our Children