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4 Ways to Boost Emotional Development in Kids

I don’t know about you all, but for me, the past 18 months hasn’t always been easy. In fact, it’s often been a stressful time with school, work, quarantine, lockdown and just day-to-day life during a pandemic. We’ve dealt with some big issues emotionally in our family (frustration, nervousness, worry, anger, etc.) and we've given out a lot of grace to each other the past year and a half. At times like this, and truly at all times, talking about mental health and emotions as a family is so important to the emotional development of our children.

I loved what Paul wrote, "And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus" (Phil. 4:7 NIV).

With back-to-school season upon us again, we don’t just get our kids ready with their uniforms and school supplies, but we also like to evaluate how they’re doing emotionally. I will be the first to admit that both of my kids have a lot of room to grow emotionally. Healthy emotional development in children is important, and honestly, emotional development in my own life is too. As parents, we play a key role in our child’s healthy emotional development.

David invited God to grow him emotionally. He said, "Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me and know my anxious thoughts" (Psalm 139:23).

You may be wondering what you can do to help ensure that your child’s emotions are developing well. Here are just a few ideas that we utilize to get you started.

1. Encourage your child to name their emotions.

If your child is young, it’s important for them to learn to name their emotions. When kids experience emotions (frustration, excitement, nervousness, sadness, jealousy, fear, worry, anger and embarrassment), teach them what each one of those emotions is. Once they begin to learn them, start asking them specifically how they feel.

2. Use your child’s favorite characters as illustrations.

As your child is learning about emotions, talk about how their favorite characters feel in books, movies or TV shows. This will help your child gain a better understanding of their own emotions. My 13-year-old is getting tired of us talking about how characters are feeling, but it has helped her ability to name her own emotions.

3. Teach your child how to manage emotions.

This is the hard part for everyone, even me. But, it’s important for your child to learn what normal reactions to emotions are. For example, when our son is angry, we encourage him to take a deep breath or count to 10 or even take a break in another room. We talk about why we feel a certain feeling, how it felt, how we responded and how we can respond better next time.

4. Help your child understand other people’s emotions.

Not only is it important for your child to learn how to manage their own emotions, but it’s important for them to learn how to react to other people’s emotions. For the rest of their lives, children will deal with other people and their emotions. Teach your child to feel empathy for others and how to deal with emotional conflicts.

Jesus gave us great advice to share with our children as we seek to help them be emotionally healthy. "Love your neighbor as yourself" (Mark 12:31 NIV).

These are just four ways to boost your child’s emotional development. Following these tips can help grow your child gain a better sense of emotions and learn how to react to them. We are praying for a great school year and will continue to talk about how we’re feeling and give each other lots of grace. I hope and pray that you can do the same in your home.

Featured in: September/October 2021