Mary Jo Rapini, psychotherapist and coauthor of Start Talking: A Girl's Guide for You and Your Mom about Health Sex, or Whatever has put together this list of ways to help your children become emotionally healthy.
50 Ways to Build Emotionally Healthy Kids
by Mary Jo Rapini, MEd, LPC
Every child I ever spoke with who grew up in a healthy, loving family has told me their home was “safe.” They explained it further saying, “No matter what was happening in the world, when I came home I felt safe from the perils out there.” Our future depends on our families, and our ability as parents to protect our child’s youth and sense of family. Today our families are under attack by the virtual world, single parenting, and media’s influence on our children. This list will help guide parents to raising healthy children who are able to socialize, love and succeed in their academic pursuits. Some of the items on the list may not be possible to carry through with parent’s limiting schedules, but many of them are easily managed with time management skills and a desire to help your child become a healthy, strong, independent adult.
- When you are with your kids on a play day, walk, or activity, shut your phone off. Nothing is as important in your life as this moment.
- Set boundaries and discipline (teach) kids for not adhering to them.
- Learn to say NO and mean it.
- Be demonstrative with loving gestures in your home (especially with your spouse).
- Have a family day once a week (including activities you share together).
- Have a set dinnertime as many days in the week as you can, and have everyone plan to attend.
- Take time and cook with your children.
- Take time and fix things around the house with your children.
- Take time and help your kids with their homework.
- Take time and go to your kids’ after school activities.
- Whatever you promised your kids, make sure you did it. If you lose their trust, you have lost everything important about being a good parent.
- Say grace with your kids prior to eating, and whoever made the dinner should be thanked profusely. If you were treated out for dinner, thank whoever bought the dinner at least three times.
- Say a night prayer with your kids.
- Include extended family with your family as much as you can for celebrations.
- Talk well about your child’s other parent (hopefully your spouse) as frequently as you can (this builds a healthy self-esteem for your child).
- Don’t gossip about others, especially in front of your kids.
- Stay as healthy as a person and parent as possible.
- Talk about lifestyle with your kids, and help them understand the importance of choosing a healthy lifestyle.
- Take time to listen to your kids and hold your tongue.
- Accept your children’s friends as much as possible.
- Invite all of your child’s friends to dinner so your child can see them as clearly as you do.
- Get interested in what your child is doing online and via their phone.
- Do not allow texting at the dinner table.
- Do not allow texting while in the company of family days or family activities.
- Set a specific time and shut down computers at night for you, your spouse and kids.
- Collect all cell phones each night and keep them in a parental designated area.
- Make it mandatory that kids clean their own room each week even if you have a housekeeper who cleans.
- Never give your child money or an allowance for doing nothing. An allowance is pay for a job (or jobs) well done.
- If you have a raging problem, do not flaunt it in front of your kids, but rather seek help from a professional.
- Do not tolerate cussing, or improper speech/ grammar in your children or your spouse. The universal language is English; make sure your child understands English before they leave home (Parents, that means you should learn and be able to speak English no matter where you came from).
- Support your child’s teacher. When you dismiss your child’s teacher or talk bad about them, you are giving your child permission to disregard other authorities (you are or should be an authority in your child’s life).
- Do not have channels on the television that you are not comfortable with your child seeing. If you aren’t there to monitor the TV, then get rid of the channels.
- Make sure you know whom your child is talking to online.
- Make sure you know and have taught your child online politeness. READ your child’s texts and what they post online so you can keep an eye on them. Tell your child when you set up the account that you will have access to reading what they write, especially if your child is under the age of sixteen. Your child is smarter than you with all virtual areas, so it is not a bad idea to hire an online security company to monitor if you are not going to.
- Never dismiss the fact that your child could be a cyber-bully, so checking on them is important.
- Explain to your child that photos must be approved before posting anywhere (kids don’t understand that a photo can go anywhere. Their world is egocentric; yours should not be).
- No adult should be emailing or texting your child unless you are related to them, and even then, you may want to be aware.
- A phone is a privilege. If your child has one, they must understand that and you, as a parent must have a consequence for your child if you find them texting while driving or sending nude photos of themselves to others.
- Take the time to teach your child about their bodies and their sexuality as soon as you see their bodies changing. School is not the place for a child to learn about their sexuality. Parents teach this in a more effective manner.
- Talk to your child about their commute to and from school with direct communication. Never ask, “How was your day?” Ask, “Did you feel safe on the bus (or whatever form of transportation) to school?”
- If your child tells you they are being bullied, believe them and have an action plan.
- When you argue with your spouse, let your children see the argument, see the understanding, see the working out of the conflict in a healthy manner, and see you embrace and forgive one another after the argument. You are mentoring for your children.
- Never allow a child under the age of thirteen on a social network. Period. I don’t care how mature they are, nor should you.
- No drinking or driving period (by child or parent).
- No texting or driving period (by child or parent).
- No porn magazines or porn sites should be allowed on any computer in the family home. Porn addiction is a growing addiction and is so easy to access that parents must guard their home as a safe place without porn.
- Eating healthy means saying NO to fast food. Nothing good comes from fast food, and it takes understanding of this as parents to help motivate parents to pack lunches or healthy snacks the night before. 15 minutes of packing lunches or snacks the night before can actually minimize obesity in your family. Obesity is a direct link to so many childhood and adult diseases.
- No emotional, physical or sexual abuse is tolerated in the family. It is never okay, and no one’s behavior should ever be an excuse for someone else to abuse them. There is not one prisoner or thug who has not been abused as a child. Enough said.
- Let your child witness that you make time for your marriage. Keep your emotional life between you and your child’s other parent. Do NOT become emotionally needy with your kids.
- YOU ARE NOT YOUR CHILD’S FRIEND. YOU ARE THEIR PARENT. QUIT TRYING TO LIVE THROUGH YOUR CHILD OR COMPETE WITH YOUR CHILD. YOU WERE A CHILD; YOU AREN’T ANYMORE. DON’T ACT LIKE ONE. BE A MOM OR DAD TO YOUR CHILD.
I can imagine healthy teens leaving home for college or work, and becoming assets to their society. It doesn’t just happen though. Healthy kids come from a healthy home. Make your home a “safe” place for kids to grow up and make mistakes, learn and love. Our country and world at large depends so much on the parents who rock the cradle.
Mary Jo Rapini, MEd, LPC, is a licensed psychotherapist and co-author with Janine J. Sherman, of Start Talking: A Girl’s Guide for You and Your Mom About Health, Sex or Whatever. Read more about the book at www.StartTalkingBook.com and more about Rapini at www.maryjorapini.com. Twitter Mary Jo: @maryjorapini or talk to her on her fan page: http://www.facebook.com/maryjorapini.
Start Talking features succinct yet lively answers, sample conversations, and real life stories to help open the door to better mother/daughter communication. Rapini and Sherman have compiled more than 113 questions girls (and their moms) routinely ask – or should be asking – about health, sex, body image, and dating.