How can you influence your child’s emotional health in a positive way and minimize those emotions known to affect mental and physical health adversely? The following facts go against some of our preconceived notions of child rearing. Yet they certainly demonstrate ways in which emotions influence children.
- A report from the National Center for Clinical Infant Programs makes the point that school success is not predicted by a child’s fund of facts or a precocious ability to read so much as by emotional and social measures, being self-assured and interested.1
- Emotion is often a more powerful determinant of behavior than the brain’s logical/rational processes.2
- Advertising research supports this fact by estimating that 80 percent of our buying habits are governed by emotions, not logic.
Emotional State to Aim For
Positive emotional states support a relaxed and open stance to life. They help children feel confident and successful, to face life with courage and not fear.
Expanded emotional states foster esteem and empowerment– two of the building blocks for fulfilling one’s life task. So although you may not be an eternal optimist, you can foster a positive attitude for yourself. Medical research correlates positivism with good health, strong immune systems, success, and favorable interpersonal skills.
Similarly, you can help your children adopt an affirming attitude, even while experiencing the stressful, pressuring nature of the real world. For example, things change, so how your children deal with impermanence will clue you in to their ability to persist in pursuing their goals.
Studies at the Institute of HeartMath in Boulder Creek, California, indicate that five minutes of anger biochemically stays in the muscles and organs of your body for six hours. Conversely, five minutes of laughter, humor, and joy biochemically anchors in your body for six hours. Such a simple statement makes you think about how you greet your children each morning. What do you say to them? How emotionally open are they as they leave for school in the morning?
Be In the Flow
An open attitude—plus acceptance, humor, joy—is certainly what you want to help them develop. In addition, you can hold an emotional state in your mind as the ideal goal for the flow of life. Just by being mindful of it, you actually enter into the flow and practice moving in and out of it. Once the mindbody system understands what flow feels like, it is easy to return to this state. Says Daniel Goleman in Emotional Intelligence, Why It Can Matter More than IQ:
Flow represents perhaps the ultimate in harnessing the emotions in the service of performance and learning. In flow, the emotions are not just contained and channeled, but positive, energized, and aligned with the task.3
Being in the flow, then, might mean you have an emotional task to focus on. This could be remembering to smile throughout your day. It could be directing your child in an activity like walking the dog, gardening, or jogging that will move energy in positive ways. As well, helping your child focus on challenging homework engages flow in persistence and rising to the challenge, eventually elongating into flow states. So do other things that enable happiness: good health, positive self-esteem, and feelings of control, optimism, and faith.4 These particular qualities also correlate with actively participating in healing disease. Why? Because they enable hope rather than beckon fear in the disease process.
Emotions are Learned
You can choose to respond in new ways, break old reaction habits, re-educate pain, and re-pattern emotions that hinder your joy, flow, and creative expression. The first major step is to learn to relax. The ability to relax is the base factor to reprogramming emotions.
You can learn and maintain emotional coherence when you feel loved, cared for, and appreciated. Those feelings calm your body; your heart rate, respiration, and blood pressure synchronize to the relaxed state.
Feeling loved and appreciated generates relaxation and has physical calming effects for your children as well. This means that love wins out in your home!
Excerpted from Chapter Two: Managing Emotions, Nurture Your Child’s Gifts, Inspired Parenting (2001, Beyond Words). See www.inspiredparenting.net for free newsletter and Become a parent coach through www.acpi.biz
- Goleman, Daniel. Emotional Intelligence, Why It Can Matter More than IQ. New York: Bantam, 1995. P. 193 – National Center for Clinical Infant Programs.
2. according to Robert Sylwester, a Professor of Education at the University of Oregon.
3. Goleman, Daniel. Emotional Intelligence, Why It Can Matter More than IQ. New York: Bantam, 1995. P. 90.
4. Myers, David, G. The Pursuit of Happiness: Discovering the Pathway to Fulfillment, Well-Being, and Enduring Personal Joy. New York: Avon Books, 1993. P. 207.
© 2007, Dr. Caron B. Goode
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Dr. Caron B. Goode is the founder of the Academy for Coaching Parents International, a training and certification program for parent coaches. In addition to duties with the academy, Goode is the founding editor of the website InspiredParenting.net, and the author of eleven books, the most recent of which is Help Kids Cope with Stress & Trauma, which includes several chapters on he use of storytelling strategies. For more information on The Academy for Coaching Parents International or to sign up for academy announcements, visit www.acpi.biz.