parenting tips

Things your child needs in their emotional suitcase

In the fall of 2020, we were preparing to move 10,000 miles from northern Virginia to southeast Asia for three years.  Prior to doing so, our family decided to take one last “Goodbye America” road trip across the United States from Virginia to Oregon to visit family out west.  The whole family was excited, but our three children didn’t quite know what to expect. Having taken many road trips myself growing up, I knew the journey would be long, and I wanted us to be prepared for anything that would come up. As such, I packed everything from food, extra charging cords, games, books, maps, music, extra headphones, first aid kit, flashlights, blankets, pillows, tire gauge, extra oil, and windshield washer fluid… trust me, if we might have needed it, I packed it.  Better to overprepare right? In fact, I packed so much that every time our family of five stopped to stretch out our legs, something inevitably fell out of the car, and it took us forever to gather our belongings when we arrived at hotels each night.

I’ll admit that chasing items as they fell out of the car and carrying our many belongings to our hotel room every night was a bit annoying. However, I don’t regret overpacking. We enjoyed passing through big cities as well as endless farmland.  We saw numerous roadside attractions using the Roadside America app (seriously get it if you’re on a road trip!), saw the world’s only corn palace in South Dakota, stopped at Yellow Stone and Glacier National Parks, Mount Rushmore, swam in beautiful lakes along the way, had a snowball fight on a mountain pass in Wyoming, and ultimately had a wonderful road trip. I’ll note that everything that I packed beforehand was used during the trip, and we frankly didn’t need to stop and get anything extra along the way.  Ultimately, the memories made on that trip were worth every crowded inch.

Just like overpacking to ensure my children’s well-being and preparedness on our trip, have you ever thought about packing your emotional suitcase as well? How about your child’s emotional suitcase? The fact is, we as parents can help pack the things in our children’s emotional suitcases to ensure their well-being and success as they journey into adulthood. Let’s face it, the journey from birth, toddler, adolescence, to teenager, to adulthood is a long one- sort of like an 18-year road trip.  Along the way, your child will need a variety of different things to get them through each phase. The same is true emotionally. 

With this in mind, here are 5 things parents can help pack in a children’s emotional suitcase to help prepare them for the journey ahead: 

1.     Unconditional love 

Unconditional love is love without limitations or conditions. Unconditionally loving your child means you accept them for who they are, as they are, with no strings attached. This instills belonging and acceptance and teaches them they are good enough, just as they are. Studies show that unconditional love is crucial for healthy physical and emotional development. In fact, children that receive unconditional love from their caregivers have stronger self-esteem and greater stress resilience.

2.     A healthy relationship with you

A healthy parent-child relationship is built by spending quality time together, communicating well, and a gentle parenting approach. It promotes healthy emotional, cognitive, motivational, and social skills in children. Children that have healthy relationships with their caregivers also develop strong problem-solving skills, and all are critical for developing healthy future relationships. 

3.     To be valued

When children feel valued by their parents, they gain confidence and trust, not only with themselves but also with their parents. Being honest, positive, and fair are all ways to help a child feel valued. As a result, the child will feel comfortable coming to their caregiver when they need help or have questions. 

4.     Selflessness 

Teaching kids to be selfless helps them, gives them a sense of purpose, and helps them connect with others. It also helps children act from their heart instead of their ego. Leading by example and serving others in the community together is a great way to instill selflessness in your child. 

5.     Security 

When children feel secure, they feel comfortable playing, exploring, and trying new things. Research shows that those who feel insecure are prone to anxiety and have problems building and maintaining peer relationships. Routines and consistency, as well as giving them your time and affection, are excellent ways to make your child feel safe. 

Setting up children for success in life is certainly a priority for every parent. But don’t forget there are multiple aspects to setting them up for success, a big one of which is emotional. Just like a cross-country road trip where you might encounter hot weather, snowy weather, and stormy weather in the span of a few days, you can help pack your child’s suitcase to handle the emotional elements, speed bumps, and potholes they will undoubtedly encounter along the way. 

So, the next time you prepare for your next long plane ride or pack for your next road trip, think about what you’re packing in your child’s emotional suitcase. You won’t ever regret overpacking what they need. 

About Jamie Edelbrock

Born and raised in Salem, Oregon, Jamie is married to her high school sweetheart, and together they have three beautiful daughters. She has worn many hats, some of which include a homeschool mom, preschool director, family ministry director, and author. Through years of experience working with children, and raising her own, she knows how difficult parenting can be. She encourages others by sharing her own trials, triumphs, and sometimes hilarious stories.  She is an advocate for children’s mental health and is best known for her creativity, optimism, and kind heart. She is the author of the newly released book, Tangled Up. Visit her at Jamie Edelbrock.

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