Five ways to keep your child's emotional cup topped up

Imagine that every child has a cup that needs to be filled with affection, love, security, and attention – a cup that holds all their emotional fuel.

This is what is referred to as a child’s emotional cup.

The saying ‘You can’t pour from an empty cup’ is certainly true with the emotional cup.

Children require their emotional needs to be met in order to get through their day as successfully as possible. When they have a lack of affection, love, security or attention or they feel stressed, their emotional cup empties and negative behaviours occur, in a bid to gain attention.

It is therefore important that parents and carers keep their child’s emotional cup filled. Here are five easy ways to do just that.

Spend quality time together with no distractions

It is easy to be present in person, but not actually be present. Focused time each day with your child is a must. This means no distractions from your phone – just good quality time, solely devoted to your child.

For younger children this could be playing together. Often as children become more independent, parents stop joining them in their play, but play is a vital part of children’s development and having a parent alongside can not only help foster their learning, but also add in some fun.

Having fun, laughing and smiling, are great ways to create some happiness – for your child and you. Other ways of spending quality time together are to read stories or having fun at the park together.

For older children, play is less important and talking more so. Getting out for a walk, doing a sport or another activity together, such as making dinner, or just sitting and having a catch up about their day are nice ways for you to connect.

Time is something that many parents feel that they are short of, but just 30 minutes a day is enough to make a positive difference – split into three chunks of 10 minutes if you are really pressed for time.

Spending time together means that your child is also more likely to open up to you about any worries that they might have.

Show affection

Research shows that there is a link between affection in childhood and health and happiness in the future. Children who have been shown affection as a child go on to be less anxious and more resilient as adults.

This may be down to the release of the hormone oxytocin, a chemical in the brain that is released during times when a person feels love and connection.

It can be easy to tell your child that you love them, but it is vital that you show them too. A hug, along with being a great comfort, can help diffuse a tense situation if your child is frustrated or upset, and it works both ways – parents also feel happier having a hug from their child.

Be sure that you don’t smother your child though and be respectful if they decline – their level of comfort will change as they do.

Show an interest in what they love doing

When you see your child doing something that they like, engage with them – ask them questions about what they are doing and perhaps join in the fun. So, if they are colouring or doing something crafty, for instance, join in, either by helping them or by doing your own masterpiece at the same time.

Doing an activity alongside your child helps them to develop their knowledge and curiosity, but is also a great way to aid them in developing their communication skills, too.

Plus, it’s a great way to bond with your child and help them to feel connected with you.

Give praise

Sometimes, it is easy to focus on the negatives, but showing your child that you notice the positives is vital.

Giving praise when you see them doing something good or helpful will boost their confidence no end and will likely encourage more of the positive and less of the negative.

It also teaches your child how to think and talk positively about themselves, how to recognise when they have done well and how to feel proud of themselves.

If you have had a day where it has mainly been negative, which can often happen, try to end the day on a positive. At bedtime, remind your child of something positive that they have done, no matter how small, so that they learn to find the positives.

Really listen

Children will be more likely tell you about the big things later in life, if they have felt that the smaller things were listened to earlier in life.

Engaging in ‘active listening’ is important. This means that you really listen to them – giving them your full attention to what they are saying, making eye contact with them, putting down your phone, giving your child time to talk and not downplaying any concerns that your child might be trying to express.

Listening can help children calm down because they feel heard.

When you don’t listen, your child will likely use frustration as a way of communicating their emotions, which often leads to shouting.

Showing some empathy and compassion towards your child is often all that is needed to get them to cool down.

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