Children's Emotional Health : 3 Essential Steps

Ever wonder if you're emotionally healthy?

Posted Dec 18, 2018

Most of us have our moments at this time of year whether it’s feeling emotionally drained, overwhelmed by things to do, or financially stretched. The holidays can be a time of exasperating stress if we let them, so why do we let them? Let’s remember who we are, come back to center, and hopefully prevent some unnecessary emotional meltdowns or bumps in the road. Of course, the better we do—the better example we give our children, who love to mimic us and send our emotions back to us amplified whether it’s a feeling of anger or enthusiasm.

Three Simple, but Not Easy Steps

One theme of my book, The Emotionally Healthy Child, is that for positive emotional health three simple, but not necessarily easy steps are important. They are:

1.      Stop (and catch ourselves). If we don’t move from our automatic and knee-jerk reactions, which create more problems like yelling and blaming—how can we ever expect to move in a healthier direction? We cannot. We must learn to interrupt our mindless reactions to anger, frustration or stress so we catch ourselves, and carefully steer toward positive emotional health. Maybe if we’re a parent it means taking deep breaths before yelling (or even worse, spanking) or if we’re a child, we learn to walk away when we want to push someone on the playground. Catching ourselves before we make a not-so-smart choice is always step one to feeling and ultimately, doing our best.

2.      Calm (and center). Most good decisions come from a calm mind versus an agitated one. The goal is to let emotions come and go without “hooking into” the challenging ones, and then learn to create the helpful ones. (Of course, I go into depth on this in my book, The Emotionally Healthy Child.) But calming isn’t something that comes naturally to all people, it is a skill to learn. Calming may mean you hit the punching bag in the basement, take a walk, or simply apply the “24-hour” rule like I learned in college: when you get upset, don’t respond until 24 hours have passed, and then you’re nearly always calmer. Of course, our boys and girls desperately need to calm and learning this together is a great way to start the new year! 

3.      Make a Smarter Choice. We’re always making choices whether it’s to cut someone off in traffic or let them in without a fuss. The choices we make—in every moment—move us toward or away from feeling and doing our best. Of course, the same is true for our children. Your son can decide to push a mean kid on the playground or walk away. The option to make a smarter choice—good for you and others—is always there (which, in this case, is walking away). Of course, life isn’t always so simple and easy, but as we become clear on what is a smart choice in every moment, we learn to do our best and set up our next best moment.


Healy, Maureen (2018). The Emotionally Healthy Child. Novato, CA: New World Library  (Preface from Dalai Lama)