THE BLOG
10/16/2014 04:01 pm ET Updated Dec 16, 2014

How to Foster the Emotional Health of Your Child

Sam Diephuis via Getty Images

In my newest series of talks, all about present moment parenting in the 21st Century, I consistently come back to the conversation around emotions.

What do human beings need from caregivers in the midst of emotional upsets? And what can caregivers provide that will lead to the development of a healthy emotional system?

Emotions are like weather; the storm builds up, it rains, it stops, the sun comes out, the storm brews again, etc. Just like weather, emotions and feeling are a part of the natural world. For a little person, just like a storm, big feelings can be scary or uncomfortable.

The way you relate to your own emotions and feelings and the emotions and feelings of the people around you, especially your children, has everything to do with how you were cared for in your early development. Specifically your first seven years. Below, we'll explore what your little one needs to become an emotionally healthy person, and provide some tips to strengthen your emotional muscle along the way.

1. Emotions are foundational to being a human being. Emotions are the physiological reactions our bodies have to certain stimuli. We experience big emotional reactions when information coming in through the senses is more than the nervous system can handle. Emotions are the built-in alarms of our regulatory system.

2. It's a paradox. We can evoke our emotions and our emotions can evoke reactions from us. We need to work to understand what emotions we are having and how to respond to ourselves and the people around us with more thought, and in ways that are more aligned with who we want to be.

3. In any situation, our option is to respond vs. react. When we react, it's an unintentional, automatic experience. When we respond, it's an intentional, aware and present experience. The challenge is to take care of ourselves in ways that allow us to be more able to respond to situations instead of just reacting. Especially when we are interacting with others who may be less regulated than we are.

4. In the first seven years, we are highly emotional beings. In early life, we are wiring into our neurology the "language" of emotion that people are speaking around us. This wiring includes both how people respond to our emotions and how they handle their own.

5. It's just weather. We operate under the belief that there are "good" and "bad" emotions. This is an old and very outdated way of thinking. There's no inherent good or bad nor right or wrong in emotions. Emotions are just internal weather. The storm rolls in, the atmosphere does what it needs to do to re-balance the system and the storm rolls out. This is similar to how our own emotional regulator system works.

6. In order to be a more emotionally healthy parent, you need to first understand where you've come from. How were you responded to when you expressed/repressed certain emotions? How did that make you feel? How do you care for yourself when you are feeling angry? Scared? Sad? Joyful?

7. Take a look at where you are now. How do you respond to yourself now when you feel certain emotions? What emotions do you restrict, which do you allow? What do you tell yourself when you are feeling those emotions?

8. Now let's turn to the little(s) in your life. How do you respond to your children when they express emotions? Especially the ones that you resist?

9. Figure out the plan to be responsive with your little(s). How do you want to respond to your child when they have both easy and hard moments? What needs to happen now to put that in place?

10. Your emotional health is the barometer for your little's experience. Explore how you want to respond to yourself when you have emotions. Practice what you want to put in place for your little, with yourself!

To learn more, or connect with other amazing parents, visit www.carriecontey.com. I'd be honored to support you and your family.