We all want to raise emotionally healthy kids who are independent and have confidence and good self-esteem. Here are four ways to help promote emotional health in your kids.

1. Feel what they feel:

Kids who are emotionally healthy are comfortable with their emotions. Many times parents inadvertently let kids know that their feelings are not important. “You shouldn’t be sad.” “We don’t cry over silly things like that!”

To help kids understand themselves and their feelings we need to empathize with them.

“You feel sad that Eli is sick and can’t play with you today.”
“You are so disappointed that you lost your favorite book.”

When we empathize with our kids we teach them to listen to themselves and understand and name their emotions. When they feel understood they can more likely move past their negative emotions and feel equipped to solve their own problems.

“Yeah, maybe I’ll see if Sam is around...”
“I’ll look upstairs for the book…”

Empathizing conveys to kids a rich vocabulary of words like, frustrated, embarrassed, sad, hurt, confused, mad, and let down. Being emotionally literate is key in developing emotional health because those words help kids makes sense of their often conflicting feelings and help them gain clarity about their inner world. It is then easier for them to be able to understand and connect with others.

2. Have faith in your kids:

Kids generally don’t like to listen to their parent’s rules. They try to find lots of ways to disregard the limits parents set. This can get pretty frustrating for us. To help promote our kids mental health we should try (as best as we can) to look at their moments of opposition as opportunities. We can use those difficult times to show that we have faith in their goodness and they have the ability to do what they are told.

For example, a parent says, “What is taking you so long? I asked you 10 minutes ago to put away your laundry and come help with dinner.”

Instead we can give our children the benefit of the doubt: “Sam, I need you attention. It seems that you didn’t hear me the first time I asked. I know you that you are generally very helpful. I need you to close your book, put your laundry away and help with dinner.”

3. See the good in your kids:

Encouraging kids by saying, “Good job” or “You are wonderful” does not build confidence or emotional health. The best way to build our children’s emotional health is to praise kids by describe what it is that they have done.

Instead of: “What a good boy you are!” Try this: “You helped Daniel find the game he was looking for. This family knows how to work together.”

4. Teach kids to problem solve:

Life is full of challenges and we cannot protect our kids from them. The best gift we can give to our kids is teaching them that they have the ability to overcome their problems. They are capable of coming up with solutions.

In my house, we often use two phrases, that help teach kids solution oriented thinking:

“We don't accuse we focus on solutions.”
“Our family if a family that focuses on solutions.

By now they have become a bit of a family joke, and not only do they help kids think about solving problems, they are used to diffuse tense situations.

When the freezer is left open by mistake or someone forgets to do their chores someone will say: “It’s a good think this family doesn't accuse and we only focus on solutions!”

Or my husband will say: “Wait, in this family we only accuse, we never focus on solutions! Oh, no, I got that wrong; it's the opposite!”

Being empathetic, showing faith, seeing the goodness in your kids and teaching your kids to problems solve are all great ways to up the odds that your kids will grow up to be emotionally healthy adults.