To have a solid start, to move gracefully into adulting we need a rock-solid foundation. Being well-balanced is not an innate human condition. For generations now it seems the pendulum has been stuck as if magnetized in the direct insuring of emotional crisis.

What I’ve written here had come from the efforts of nearly a decade spent outside of the workplace. Those years dedicated to unearthing and unraveling three generations of Childhood Trauma which has led me to becoming an emotional wellness advocate. So, as a disclaimer, I truly can understand how this can make for uneasy reading. And it may seem entirely unrealistic. But let me also say this; I don’t know anyone whose childhood experience was as such, but I can imagine a world where it is possible.

I believe the first factor would be having excellent examples. When a child is surrounded by emotionally self-aware adults, they will learn in the best environment possible. But when parents can’t self-regulate well emotionally, chances are, neither will their children. Which would  of course lead to having the ability to provide guidance on emotional navigation. Teaching the importance of emotions is crucial. When a child is allowed to express emotions freely and then encouraged to understand what they feel by learning how to identify, process and release what emotions they will be able to regulate themselves emotionally and thus cope. However, those who learn to bottle up what they feel and move into their adult lives unprepared and end up carrying emotional baggage filled with repressed confusion, pain and anger. It’s that hidden pain that turns adult live into dysfunctional messes where we use addiction and distraction to cope in place of the tools we weren’t given.

Following that would be having acceptance of the child’s true self. When a parent is just as curious about who the child will become, they won’t have to seek authenticity later in life. When adults haven’t projected a desired version of who they should become onto the child or the effects of their own failings, the child can then focus on themselves rather than pleasing others because they know they are believed in as individuals.

Obviously, love is hugely important, but kids need it to be unconditional love, no matter what. That is what allows a child to feel secure. They feel comfortable making mistakes and accepting guidance because their actions will be addressed without their character being attacked. In other words, you can make a child feel terrible about themselves by saying they were bad for their actions or you can explain why their actions were unwanted instead. By dropping the expectations that turn that love into conditional love a child learns they are more important than accomplishments.

Often forgotten is the importance in setting healthy boundaries. As children grow, they have an opportunity to expand. That gentle transfer of power from the parent’s reign of control being handed to the child in stages as the parents assure that they are ready lets them learn to build social emotional competency.

Lastly by having fun. Too often we turn into adults of an extremes, either by taking things too seriously or not seriously enough. When having fun is encouraged all the way through youth work life balance will not be in question.

It is never too late to become emotionally self-aware. By investigating how you feel, by watching for times when you react emotionally in an outburst rather than responding calmly, those are opportunities to grow, to unpack that emotional baggage. I wish my parents would have made even the slightest attempt and I so wish my son could hear me now. We can’t change them, but we can always grow to be better ourselves. Much love on your journey.

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Penny Payton.