- Amy Morin is a psychotherapist, licensed clinical social worker, mental strength coach, and international bestselling author.
- Having a home that's physically safe and sanitary is key when raising kids, but Morin explains it's equally important to provide an emotionally healthy space.
- Morin says to encourage family time, set clear rules and consequences for misbehavior, initiate open conversations about emotions, and use 'feeling' words to show your kids that their feelings are valid.
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When most people think about having a healthy home, they envision good air quality or a well-sanitized kitchen.
But the emotional health of a home matters too — maybe even more than the bacteria count on your kitchen island. After all, the emotional health of the home you grow up in can impact you for the rest of your life.
So it's essential to create an emotionally healthy environment for your children. And even if you don't have kids, establishing a home that supports good psychological well-being is still paramount to living your best adult life.
Here's how to create an emotionally healthy home:
1. Design a space that encourages positive feelings
Designing a home that will encourage your family to thrive doesn't have to be luxurious. A well-organized space with natural light can go a long way toward helping everyone feel good.
Whether you do some serious decluttering to create a sanctuary-like feeling, or you add more family photos that evoke positive memories, small changes to the environment can have a big impact on everyone's mood and behavior.
2. Establish rules
Rules are meant to keep everyone safe — both physically and emotionally. So make sure you identify behaviors that aren't acceptable in your home.
Establishing rules like "No name-calling" and "No yelling" can help everyone experience more emotional safety.
Other rules like "Knock on closed doors" and "Ask before borrowing something" can also help everyone feel secure.
3. Provide clear consequences
While no child likes to have their favorite toy taken away, consequences remind them that you're in charge. And while they may not act grateful for it, deep down it gives them a sense of security to know that you're going to keep them safe.
Make your consequences known ahead of time. Let your kids know that if they choose to break the rules, your job is to teach them to make better decisions next time.
4. Use 'feeling' words
Whether you talk about feeling sad that the rain caused your outdoor plans to be canceled, or you discuss feeling a little nervous about the upcoming presentation you're going to give, initiating open discussions about emotions will encourage everyone to share their feelings.
If you incorporate these feeling words into your everyday language, you'll help build your children's emotional vocabulary (as well as your own).
5. Validate everyone's feelings
Avoid dismissing your kids' feelings at all costs. Saying things like "Stop crying" or "Don't worry" tells them that their feelings are wrong.
Make it clear that whatever someone else is feeling is OK. Anger, frustration, sadness, embarrassment, and fear are all acceptable emotions. Teach them healthy ways to manage these uncomfortable feelings, and they'll grow up with the coping skills they need to deal with life's emotional challenges.
6. Confront uncomfortable issues
It can be tempting to ignore uncomfortable issues — like someone's lack of hygiene or a budding mental health problem. But ignoring the "elephant in the room" doesn't make problems go away. In fact, they're more likely to get worse over time.
Address uncomfortable issues head-on. Show your family members that you have enough trust in your relationship to talk about subjects that stir up uncomfortable feelings.
7. Practice healthy conflict resolution skills
Disagreements aren't bad. But the way you handle them might be. Using the silent treatment, yelling, or making threats will crush the emotional health of any home.
Compromise, set healthy boundaries, and problem-solve together. Work on being a good family member by helping everyone get their needs met in a healthy way.
8. Reach for healthy coping skills
While food, alcohol, and incessant social media scrolling might make you feel better for a minute, these coping skills only temporarily numb the pain. They can make things worse in the long run and introduce new problems into your life.
Practice healthy coping strategies, and be willing to experiment with different ones until you discover what works best for you. Reading a book, working in the garden, or doing a little yoga might relieve your stress and help you keep uncomfortable feelings in check.
9. Provide everyone with time, attention, and affection
The quality of time you spend together is likely more important than the quantity of your time. Your family would likely prefer to have your genuine attention for 30 minutes than to spend 60 minutes talking to you while you scroll through social media.
Make it a priority to spend time together every day, like eating a meal together. Develop small rituals as well, such as reading a story before bedtime. Show affection, express how much you care, and practice being present with everyone.
10. Talk openly about mental health
Make time to do things that are good for your mental health, like spending time in nature and talking to friends.
Talk openly about the fact that anyone can develop a mental health issue, such as depression or anxiety. Make it clear that seeing a professional for your mind is no different than seeing a dentist for your teeth or a doctor for your body.
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