Tip #1: Help them Recognize a Range of Feelings

Written by Scott Todnem

We often hear how important it is to regulate our emotions, but how is that achieved and how can we help our young people do this? How can we help our young people experience normal human feelings but also stay balanced and not overwhelmed? Here are three quick tips for helping your young person maintain emotional well-being.

Emotional well-being is not always about improving a person’s mood, oftentimes, emotional well-being is about maintaining a healthy balance of mood. For someone to maintain their mood, they must first begin by realizing that, like it or not, they are going to experience many different feelings in life.

It is helpful to explain to your young person that each year, each month, and even each day will be full of a variety of feelings, and a combination of them at that. Miniature shifts in mood occur because of the time of day, environment setting, and everything going on with work, school, or relationships. Plus, it’s never just one simple feeling filling our brain. What’s pretty obvious is that we aren’t just happy or sad, fearful or hopeful. We can be nervous but excited. We can be worried but grateful. We can even be exhausted and then re-energized within a matter of minutes.

Even though it’s natural to strive to be content and work to enjoy each passing moment, we don’t need to be happy all the time. Experiencing a full range of human emotions is beneficial for our livelihood. It’s what sets us apart as a progressed human species. In order to react and respond appropriately, it helps us to have feelings and acknowledge those feelings. This is known as an affect. Highs and lows are natural and expected, but it’s always about how we handle those life events and manage any feelings that come up as a result. Good news, bad news, fun situations, embarrassing moments, positive social interactions, and annoyance or arguments are all a part of being human.

Maintaining emotional well-being starts by realizing that this will all occur in any given year. Support your young person in what and how they are feeling and encourage them to feel each intricate emotion. This gives them valuable feedback into their current existence, and gives them insight into how to respond and carry on — whether through the sorrow and heartache, or with the aura of joy and exuberance.

Helping them recognize that a range of feelings will occur is empowering for them. It allows your young person to experience each complex combination of emotions without being critical of themselves and without self-judgment.

Self-judgment compounds problems. So, without being angry for being angry, becoming more sad and frustrated for being sad or frustrated, encourage them to allow the feelings to set in, recognize them, and then they can be ready to respond and move on to managing their emotional state.

Tip #2: Help them Reduce Clutter

Clutter, as a term, will serve as two-fold here: not just physical clutter, but mental clutter as well.

Helping and motivating your young person to maintain their physical space can help to avoid minor emotional disturbances, like low mood and annoyance, all the way up to more life altering mental illnesses such as depression and anxiety. This doesn’t mean they (nor you) need to be a “neat freak” about their living space, have their bedroom perfectly organized, or everything orderly and untouched. They just need to feel at home in their living area, whatever that looks like. Most apartments or houses have a “lived-in” feel that is comfortable — that’s what makes it homey.

Reducing clutter does mean ridding a person’s life of trash, unnecessary paperwork, dirty dishes, old clothes, and other items they no longer need. So help your young person apply this to their life. A general rule of thumb is, if they haven’t worn or used it in a year, consider donating, recycling, or throwing it out. Ridding their space of clutter contributes to easing the feeling of being overwhelmed.The term mental clutter also refers to the buildup of thoughts and tasks that can weigh down the mind, keeping it from thinking clearly.

Mental clutter can also occur with too many items on a person’s to-do list and limited time to complete them. We all know that horrible feeling…so much to do in so little time.

Motivate your young person to get their to-do list down to size by prioritizing time. Decide together if it’s best to knock out the items that take less time first, and then attack the larger things they need to do, or if they would feel better working through the difficult tasks to start while they have the energy. We all have different times of day where we do our best work. Sometimes common sense helps us figure this out, but there are also estimates based on a person’s sleep tendencies. Some people work best in the morning, some work best in the evening. Analytical/logical work, insightful work, and decision-making are all important but they may be more effective at different times of the day. Helping your young person complete each week’s to-do list when they are in their most regulated, focused state, can put them in a sweet spot for productivity, which greatly reduces mental clutter. The book, “When,” by Daniel Pink, helps with some of this — check it out and use his work as a resource if needed.

Finally, help manage your young person’s activity time, sleep time, and screen time to avoid mental burnout. These and other essential brain activities play an important role in emotional well-being.

Tip #3: Get them Involved

Social connectedness has a humongous effect on mental health. Help your young person find a hobby or rediscover an interest they had. Facilitate them getting together with their social group more often. Make sure they are staying physically active. Help them to create challenges for their brain and get them involved with the outer world, they will benefit with a great return on their inner world.

Often, though, this is easier said than done.

How do I make sure my young person has a positive friend group? How do I help them figure out what hobbies they like to do? How do I motivate them to reach out to friends when they are naturally shy? How do I show them that the time they spend in various activities really helps them? These are great questions. You can rest assured that you’re not the only one who may wonder how to apply all of this to helping their young person’s well-being. Just because you read or hear about emotional well-being doesn’t mean there will be follow through — and often, the issue is that a speaker or writer won’t give any tips or skills to make it all happen!

There are a few ways to help your young person find their interests in life, including the development of social relationships, that can benefit their mind.

  1. Let your young person’s passions naturally emerge, and over time, encourage your young person to nurture those hobbies and friendships by giving them more of their time and energy. Help them make a habit of self-reflecting at the start of each month to see what excites them going forward — is it the same activities they have been putting effort into in the last few months?
  2. Another way to help your young person find focus in their life is to help them aim their energy and encourage them to purposefully pour time into an activity for a few weeks to see how the outcome feels. Check back at the end of the week and ask them, “Was it worthwhile?”
  3. Finally, you can consciously guide their free time and effort over a few different interests and social groups to see which ones seem the most rewarding for them. This comparison can be especially useful for them and you, since it’s nice to base a decision in an either/or format. Kind of like shopping, this is a nice way to compare and contrast interests. But the opposite effect might be that they leave a person or activity behind, and they end up regretting it. Make sure you both are careful not to dismiss one of their specific friends or activities for good, unless you both are absolutely certain it will provide no emotional pay off in their future.