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From College Psychologist, Ms Samantha Jessen

Father and son

Supporting Your Child’s Emotional Development

It can be difficult to know what to say or how to respond to our children when they are going through a difficult time. Our children might not say anything at all, and it can be even harder to know what is going on inside their head. We all want to do what’s best, however sometimes it might seem that when we try to help, it makes things worse. So, how can we connect with our children on a practical level? How can we start to understand our children more?

Make time to be present

We all run busy lives with countless responsibilities and never-ending to-do lists. Being present and making regular quality time with your children means that they know you are available and that you have the capacity to be with them. If this seems difficult, try carving out 30 minutes of family time once a week to play a card game, go for a walk, or spend time outside together (away from screens).

Family connecting

Learn how to actively listen

When our children come to us in distress, our instant reaction may be to try and fix whatever might be the problem. Whilst problem-solving has its time and place, what we all really want is to be listened to and validated. Instead of automatically going into fix-it mode, you might like to try active listening.

This means letting your child talk without interruption, and paraphrasing back what they say. This helps them see that you really understand what they are saying, or, gives them the opportunity to correct you to further your understanding of the issue.

Instead of “right, let me talk to them and I will sort it out”, try “It sounds like you think you were treated unfairly when he said that to you and makes you think you’d like to quit – is that right?”

Learn to validate your child’s emotions

Even if the issue might seem trivial or insignificant to you, your children’s feelings and experiences are very real. When you let your child know they are allowed to feel upset/angry/confused/annoyed/scared, without trying to change it, you are giving them space to sit with their emotions and learn to let them be.

This is very important in developing a child with strong emotional intelligence (remember that every feeling is acceptable and allowed, but every behaviour is not).

Instead of “It’s not a big deal. You’ll be fine! You have nothing to worry about!” try “I hear you are feeling very worried about this, and I can see why! I bet anyone else in this situation would be feeling the exact same way”.

Ask your child what they think they need

Sometimes, your child might want to problem-solve the issue with you. Other times, they might just want to vent with you and have time to connect with you. By asking your child what they need, they start to learn that their needs are valid and respected. As they grow, they will start to learn what their needs are, how to ask for their needs to be met, and how to take care of their own needs independently.

Instead of “I will fix this issue for you, stop worrying about it now”, try “what do you think you might need now? We can chat together to work out a plan or maybe you’d like a hug – maybe both?”

The Senior School Library has recently stocked Bringing Up Boys Who Like Themselves by Kasey Edwards and Dr Christopher Scanlon for further reading and support. If you would like further guidance around resources to build helpful communication, feel free to reach out to the Psychology Team at Waverley College.

Bringing Up Boys Who Like Themselves

Psychology Team

Junior School Psychologists

  • Ms Dawn Young (Year 5 students)
  • Ms Alexsandra McCredie (Year 6 students)

Senior School Psychologists

  • Ms Samantha Jessen (Lacey, Quinn, Conlon and Green House students)
  • Mr Greg Cameron (O’Connor, Brennan and Aungier House students)
  • Ms Olivia Stelling (Tevlin House students)