As parents living in a modern world, we work hard, demand high standards for ourselves and others, and squeak productivity out of every single day. While it may seem that our kids are living a simpler life with simpler demands, they are not immune to today’s lightning fast pace, says Karen Gomez, Director of Wellness with Cranbrook Schools.
“Our world is heating up and getting more competitive. We recognize the things kids worry about, like grades, friendships, and getting into college. At Cranbrook we are on a journey of self-discovery” Gomez says. “Cranbrook values youth voice and engagement. We encourage dialogue and want to hear student voices, and consider ourselves a “talking school”. We want to know how they think, what they hope for and what makes them worry.
Cranbrook Schools is working proactively and values the “whole child” approach to student well-being. Cranbrook is continually developing practices to support the intellectual, social, emotional, physical, and health of students. Cranbrook believes that when they work together to provide supports in all areas of well-being, students reach their full potential, beyond academic achievement, and grow into happy, healthy, and successful adults.
“Well-being is the foundation of growing, developing, and acquiring needed skills to be happy, healthy and fulfill your dreams,” Gomez says. “It’s the foundation that everything else attaches to and grows from.”
It starts with Emotional Intelligence (EQ)
A cornerstone of well-being is Emotional Intelligence, also known as Social Emotional Learning or EQ. Strong EQ supports youth and adults to effectively navigate the complexities and stressors of our modern world. All feelings are OK – they give us important information. It’s important for kids to learn how to respond to feelings and choose healthy strategies to achieve desired results. These skills also support building and maintaining positive relationships, along with resiliency to bounce back from setbacks and will serve students for their entire life. Strong EQ skills have been proven to increase academic learning and life success and are one of the attributes that companies are seeking in their employees.
“When it comes to parenting, what I have learned both professionally and personally is that caring and positive relationships matter,” Gomez says. “It makes a significant difference when kids can identify and feel confident that there is at least one trusted adult who cares about them. Strong caring relationships help kids manage themselves better and reduce high risk behaviors. That committed, trusted adult does not have to be a parent.” Teachers, coaches, and community members can all contribute to a young person’s well-being.
As counterintuitive as it may seem, parents can help their children build emotional intelligence by giving them the space to make mistakes. One of the best ways to do this is to model positive ways we handle our own foibles.
“Sometimes we don’t know how to handle it when we get it wrong, but making mistakes is part of the human experience. When we recognize our own mistakes and then let our kids see how we make amends and restore the relationship, we give them space to learn how to make it better,” Gomez says. When parents model appropriate behaviors, offer apologies, and make things right, they promote problem solving and resilience, she says.
One relatable example for parents is recognizing when they react too strongly and raise their voice. “Owning that mistake and sharing that next time you’ll go into another room or handle your anger in a different way models how to build a safe space from which we can learn and grow,” she explains.
Never too early to address mental health
Research shows that babies see and react to their caregivers’ faces and voices in mere seconds after birth, and that a child’s DNA can be affected by parents’ emotional, mental and physical health during development, Gomez says. This newer field of study, epigentics, give us hope that we can teach new parents to create environments supporting safety and well-being in order to impact their child’s ability to be resilient in the face of adversity.
“It’s never too early to pay attention to your child’s mental health. All research about the parent-child connection and bond is clear,” she says. Rates of problem identification have increased over the past years; however, parents should trust their instincts, keep their eyes open, and talk to others about what is normal, appropriate, child development, Gomez says.
“All public-school districts have early intervention and free evaluation services. Local health departments also provide a variety of services. Parents should not hesitate to seek services if they are concerned,” Gomez says.
Common sense approaches to child wellness, at every age
Together with advocating proper nutrition and sleep, maintaining appropriate levels of screen time, and carefully guarding against overscheduling; parents can support their child’s emotional wellness by being present and listening.
“It is important to give children a space to speak what’s on their mind and the opportunity to have a voice; you don’t have to agree with what they say, but it’s important to let kids talk. Modeling civil discourse when you disagree is also beneficial” Gomez says
Offering real, specific and deserved praise, supporting your child in being a self-advocate, creating a sense of belonging at home through activities that speak to your child, and communicating with teachers to share important concerns and celebrations are all proactive ways to support their well-being, Gomez says.
“People do not think about emotional well-being and mental health being as important as physical health. However, it is all very important, and they all work together,” Gomez says. “I’m proud that Cranbrook is putting a flag in the ground to help develop kids who are not just academically successful, but also emotionally intelligent, happy, healthy and well adjusted.”
For more information on Cranbrook Schools, visit cranbrook.edu.