Before I begin to write this week’s article, I would like to thank you for the overwhelming response for the previous article. I am glad that you could connect to what I wrote and agreed with me. Your feedbacks and response are a source of inspiration and encourages me to keep writing. I had mentioned about the importance of taking care of our children’s mental health. Today I would be discussing what makes us ignore our children’s mental health and what can we do to focus on the same.
I would like to begin with few open-ended questions which are for you to think on. As parents we make sure all our child’s requirements/ needs such as food, shelter, dress, education, entertainment are fulfilled. Most of us have provided our children with abundance of all these, what most of us have failed to think is “Are we taking care of the emotional needs of our children?” Do we even know what possible emotional needs our child may have? How do we satisfy those? When thinking of emotional needs, what immediately comes to my mind is love and affection. Of course we love our children and want to protect them from any harm or distress. But what else do they need from us as care givers? How can we help our children develop strong emotional intelligence and self-awareness?
As our children grow up and undergo several changes physically, mentally and socially. Their needs and requirements also change, like they no more watch cartoons or read comics or story books once they have crossed teenage. Similarly, like any other need, their emotional need also changes and here I have compiled information on the emotional needs of children in different age groups:
Toddlers (aged 1- 3) are just getting themselves up and learning about the world around them. It’s an extremely exciting time for physical, cognitive and language development. They understand much more than we think and they develop self-awareness during this period.
The need to be understood: Toddlers understand so much more than they can express, which can be understandably frustrating. Their communication skills can’t keep up with their emotional and physical development, which results in their perception preceding speech production. Tuning in to what toddlers are trying to express can be difficult, but it will help to put them at ease. Don’t give up on trying to understand and try to avoid interrupting before their sentence is finished. Picture books and baby sign language are options to consider, but the need to be understood can often be fulfilled by active, regular listening and persistence.
Freedom to make mistakes: It is important for toddlers to learn some things on their own. The instinct is to help them up every time they fall and stop them from dropping things before they do it, but letting them learn these things on their own can instill an early level of independence.
Of course, don’t let children put themselves in danger, but the small things that don’t cause much of a problem (except perhaps a bit of mess!) can be learned through mistakes.
The need for an example: Toddlers watch and listen to everything you do. They are like little scientists, watching and taking in, ready to copy. They can imitate behaviours days after an event, so you may one day see them hold a phone to their ear or pretending to read a book, even if you’re not doing it at that moment. This means that they need a good example and positive behaviours to copy – avoid swearing, smoking or aggression in front of them. If you don’t want your children to do something, you have to stop doing it near them.
Encouragement and praise: Toddlers have inquisitive minds, which can be nurtured with encouragement and reassurance. Most children are driven by a desire for approval and a need to please their guardians, so demonstrating you are happy with them is key to fulfilling this need. Praising good behaviour is important across all ages, but praising creativity or decision making is a great way of fostering solid thinking skills in toddlers and young children.
Emotional needs of children between the age group of 4-11years and teenagers in the upcoming article.
(The author is the founder and Chief Executive Officer of Learning Arena, an e-learning company)