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A Guide To Raising Emotionally Strong Children Today

Written exclusively for bümo by Katie Crosby, Pediatric Occupational Therapist.

"As always, there are exceptions and imperfect humans will be less than available at times - this is expected and all part of the process. Perfection is never the goal."

Hi, I’m Katie Crosby, founder of Thriving Littles where I guide humans both big and small to support emotional regulation, meaningful daily routines, and caregiver/child match via my pediatric occupational therapy lens and personal development journey. Honored to be sharing with you all at bümo. 

There tends to be fear about “messing up” kids – not being enough, unknowingly traumatizing them, unresolved experiences, the list goes on. Yet how to beef up their capacities and set foundational development, interaction, experiences to guide them to resilience for life’s inevitable ups and downs? Here are some places to start.

1.) Know ourselves

We cannot model emotional regulation from a place of habit that isn’t working for us. The most loaded process of all: ourselves and the evolution of stripping societal expectations, family or cultural programming that isn’t working for us, and judgment we have about the ways things “should” be. Practice being aware of and expanding the meaning we have for our own emotions as well as an understanding of our body sensations. With this emotional literacy, it is possible to be there for ourselves in moments we are triggered versus project our “stuff” onto kids. Understand our personal history, familial interactive patterns, “stuck” emotion or trauma that may be subconsciously showing up with kids in our lives. Own ourselves and our emotions… Rooting for us all.

2.) Be present for their emotion, no matter the range.

This means if they are upset, we pause and listen. If they are joyful, we consider the contents of their mind in that moment and share it. If they are angry, we hear them. We go by the mantra all emotion is acceptable and we’ll work with them (co-regulate) for them to be able to manage behaviors that arise. As always, there are exceptions and imperfect humans will be less than available at times – this is expected and all part of the process. Perfection is never the goal.

3. See and hear them out

See and hear this small human in front of us as an individual with their individual gifts, vulnerabilities, desires, core wants and needs they crave to connect and share with the world. Respond to what they’re passionate about, what they dislike. Listen to their stories. When we mess up and yell or grab them more strongly than anticipated, intentionally repair – let them know you saw how it could have impacted them and we are working on our feeling emotions while monitoring the output actions of those emotions.

4. See the ritual in the routine.

Make daily life events predictable, meaningful, then spontaneously playful. Notice which aspects of routine help the child to feel what Dan Siegel calls the foundations of organization and attachment: seen, safe, soothed, and secure – and stick to those aspects with all of your might. Build in the child’s individual preferences for connection, fun, touch through daily life versus going through the motions. Again: Think progress over perfection, even small shifts in one routine at a time can pay off in big ways.

5. Play.

This one could be first in the book yet it’s a loaded process to get there if you didn’t experience play growing up, if you are stressed to the point of survival mode, or if your child is a challenging “match” for you. Growing aware and having self-compassion while problem-solving ways to work through this is everything. Kids need play like they need breathing, and us showing up for it and allowing them to lead the way may be one of the most powerful things we can do.

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