Children and adults face obstacles and stressors each and every day. Although we may not have the ability to eliminate these challenges, we can teach kids how to understand and self-regulate the emotions they experience. These lessons can be difficult as adults, so how do we guide the younger generation? We sat down with Dr. Emily Griese, Director of Population Health at Sanford Health in Sioux Falls, SD, to learn ways parents can encourage emotional development.

Find your Family’s Balance 
Extracurricular activities provide countless benefits to children, including exposure to diversity, learning opportunities, and most importantly, fun! However, it’s important to remember, quality over quantity. As caregivers, you want to provide your child with every opportunity available, yet when children are rushing from one thing to the other, they can become easily overwhelmed. 

Even of her own kids, Griese says, “I can see when they come home from being in daycare all day that they need time away from their peer group, a safe place to have me-time, family-time, or just a less busy environment. Shuttling kids from one chaotic environment to the next can lead to an emotional breakdown, especially when they are younger.”

Griese says, “We know the importance of these activities but it’s figuring out a balance, and it’s truly different for each kid.” 

Trust your gut, and remember, you know your child best. If you’re seeing signs of fatigue, use it as a teachable moment to explain to your child that it’s OK to pause and take breaks when needed. This could mean skipping a practice, not meeting friends one night, or even cutting out an activity completely. Griese suggests, especially for younger children, “Set aside time in the evenings and weekends as designated family time.” Remember, your family’s balance may be vastly different from others’, and that’s just fine! Discovering your unique balance is key in emotional health.

The Tough Part: Follow Through
Every day, kids are experiencing numerous feelings and emotions that influence their mood. And let’s be honest, the end result isn’t always a great one. As caregivers, it’s vital to set a precedent on how you will handle fluctuating moods and behaviors. There is no black and white answer, and it can look different for every family, but what is important is that you follow through. Say what you mean and mean what you say. Talk to your child about coping strategies they can use to help manage and motivate their mood. When tantrums happen, remind them of these strategies. Also, remember to be a positive role model and practice these techniques yourself. “It’s an emotional reaction, we all have that”, Griese admits, “Even adults don’t have this mastered.” She says, “However as adults, it is our job to talk with kids about the process of managing moods.”  

Discovering your family’s balance and following through with expectations is not always an easy task.  Trust your instincts and know that today’s lessons are helping to mold and enhance social-emotional skills that last a lifetime. Check out Part I of this series in which Dr. Emily Griese discusses the importance of promoting perspective and effective communication.