Supporting Your Child’s Emotional Needs​

Parents play a big part in a pre-adolescent child’s mental wellbeing. Here are some ways to foster a healthy, positive relationship with your child, and support their emotional needs.

  1. Approach each child as an individual.
    Try not to compare children to others, even siblings and friends, as each child is unique.
  2. Spend sufficient quality time with your child.
    Engage in activities together with your child, particularly those that your child likes and enjoys.
  3. Listen to your child.
    Sometimes, all a child needs is a parent who hears them. Ask the child about his daily activities or things that he likes. Allow him to express his ideas and feelings – listen without interruption, criticism, or giving advice. Not only will you learn what motivates him, you will also let your child know that he is important to you.
  4. Acknowledge and empathise.
    If your child expresses fears or negative feelings e.g. hurt, sadness, or anger, do not dismiss these. Instead, acknowledge their emotions and help them to cope.
    Some of the ways you can do so are to:
    • Help them to label their feelings.
      "You get angry when you’re teased."
      "That made you upset, didn’t it?"
    • If the child is expressing his negative feelings in an inappropriate manner, point out that their current behaviour is not right.
      "I know you’re angry but screaming is not going to solve the problem."
    • Direct the child to do something else.
      "Why don’t you take a rest?"
    • Ask them for ideas on how they can deal with the problem. Demonstrate how they can learn from mistakes.
  5. Be firm and consistent in disciplining.
    Children feel more secure if firm and reasonable boundaries are clearly indicated and implemented. It is recommended that parents start with just a few rules. These rules should be specific and framed positively and made clear to the child. An example could be "Please speak politely" instead of "Don’t be rude.”

    The child must know the consequences of breaking the rules. When enforcing the rules, both parents should be united and consistent at all times. T​hey should also acknowledge when the child is able to keep to the rule.
  6. ​Be positive and encouraging. Children pick up quickly on their parents’ expectations, as they form beliefs about themselves through their experiences. If they often hear that they are naughty or useless, they may begin to believe it is true.

    Therefore, maintain realistic expectations of your child, based on your understanding of his strengths and weaknesses. Do not be afraid to praise you child. Praise can be done appropriately, focusing on specific behaviour or effort, instead of qualities. For example, "John, thank you for sharing your toy with Tommy, well done!"

All in all, meeting a child’s emotional needs – letting him feel safe and secure, understood, accepted despite his shortcomings, and loved – will go a long way towards building a positive relationship, and lay the foundation for mentally resilient children.

Supporting Your Child’s Emotional Needs