This blog post is part of a trio of posts centered around the lessons I want my children to know by the time they launch into the world. The intro to all three blog posts is the same.
Launching can look very different for different families, but in our family, when our children graduate from high school and leave to attend college, this marks a significant milestone in their life. Granted, they still are tied in some ways to us and depend on my husband and I for certain things, but they are out of the house, living on their own, which feels like a preliminary launch into full-blown adulthood.
I have divided the topic of Lessons Before They Launch into three posts, each covering a different category of lessons. In addition to this one, there is a post focused on Personal Behavior and one focused on Tactical Life Skills.
I also have recorded a podcast episode in which I speak in more detail about ten of these lessons. For reference, if the topic is covered in the podcast, I will mention it below along with a time stamp of where you can find that particular topic in the episode. These posts and the podcast episode are meant to supplement each other, working in tandem to provide as much information as possible.
I also want to say that many of these lessons are things we continue to learn over the course of our life. The idea is not that your child will have fully mastered these lessons when they leave the nest, but rather, the topics of each lesson will be familiar territory to them. As a parent, what I want to avoid is for my child to encounter these issues for the first time after they have left home. I feel that would be a disservice to them. Instead, I want to equip them with as many tools as possible to navigate what lies ahead.
Think of these lessons as each having a spectrum of skill, knowledge, and mastery. What we are looking for when our children leave the house is for all of the lessons to at least register as a known quantity on their spectrum of knowledge. As they continue to grow and mature, so too will their scope of knowledge and experience with each of these lessons.
Let’s dive into the Emotional Well Being Lessons!
HOW TO UNDERSTAND THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN ACTIONS AND CONSEQUENCES
(I talk about this topic in more detail in Podcast Episode 39 starting at the 24:15 mark.)
Saving your children from the outcomes of their decisions only robs them of the ability to learn from their mistakes. It also keeps them from understanding that actions have consequences, and allows them to develop autonomy.
HOW TO NAME A FEELING
“How are you feeling?” If you can’t name a feeling, you can’t move through a feeling. Fine is not a feeling. Anxious, sad, worried, abandoned, lonely, afraid, compromised, silly, joyful, and angry are feelings. Teach your children to name their feelings, and you will give them a gift.
HOW TO USE HEALTHY COPING MECHANISMS TO PROCESS FEELINGS
(I talk about this topic in more detail in Podcast Episode 39 starting at the 25:23 mark.)
Once you know how you feel, you can deal with it. Feeling your feelings is hard work. Food, sex, alcohol, drugs, work, and a million other distractions are unhealthy ways to avoid or numb feelings. The real tools that help us move through and process feelings are physical activity, crying, connection with others, journaling, therapy, artistic expression, and sleep are tools we use to process our emotions in healthy ways. Does your child know how to process their feelings in a healthy way? Do they know that big feelings are ok to have?
HOW TO KNOW WHAT YOU NEED AND NAME IT
(I talk about this topic in more detail in Podcast Episode 39 starting at the 27:54 mark.)
Asking and answering the question, “What do you need?” is not as simple as it sounds. But having a sense of how to move forward can begin by knowing what you need, even if the answer is, “I need a glass of water.” Listen, I do not expect eighteen-year-olds to master this lesson by the time they leave the house. I am still learning how to do this. But it is part of the mental wellness picture, and planting the idea of learning how to name what you need is a valuable lesson.
HOW TO GET WHAT YOU NEED
Once you know what you need, do you know how to get it? This may be the crux of learning to be an adult, so it won’t be a skill your child has when they graduate. But as parents, it is our job not to hand everything to them. They have to struggle and figure out how to get their needs met without us. So let them!
HOW TO ASK FOR HELP IF YOU CAN’T GET WHAT YOU NEED
Admitting we need help can be humbling or make us feel incompetent. I try to normalize asking for help in our home because everyone at some point needs help. Why would we think we know how to do everything? Of course we need help! Asking for help allows others who are good at certain things we are not good at to use what they have in a meaningful way.
HOW TO NAVIGATE CONFLICT
(I talk about this topic in more detail in Podcast Episode 39 starting at the 29:07 mark.)
Again, not something we ever stop learning, and certainly not something we master by the time we leave the house. But learning healthy conflict begins at home, and sibling rivalry is a great place to start. So too is conflict with school friends. How do you coach your child regarding how they handle conflict with friends? Do they understand when they are outside their zone of optimal functioning and need to take a break? Do they know how to cool off and then come back to the conversation? More importantly, do they know they can call you when conflict arises and find a curious, judgement-free listener who will encourage them?
HOW TO SET AND RESPECT BOUNDARIES
We use the phrase, “That’s not really something you get to decide” in our home a lot to describe where one person’s responsibility ends and another’s begins. Boundaries are the building blocks of healthy relationships, and learning to set them as well as respect them will set your child up for emotionally healthy friendships and romantic relationship.
HOW TO RESPOND VS REACT
(I talk about this topic in more detail in Podcast Episode 39 starting at the 32:00 mark.)
Reactions are emotional. Responses are rational. When we are triggered or elevated, our emotions take over to keep us safe. But we need to balance all of our raw feelings with rational thought and logic. It takes time and patience to wade through how we are feeling, untangle the knots a bit, and then make a response that is balanced.
HOW TO KNOW THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN ACCEPTANCE AND APPROVAL
Acceptance is a healthy acknowledgment of safety and inclusion. Approval is dependent on actions. I can accept you, but not approve of what you just said or did. In a healthy relationship, my acceptance of you is never on the line, even if I disapprove of your behavior in a given situation. Knowing the difference can be a barometer for the health of any given relationship.