Physical vs. Emotional Well-Being
With adults more focused on children’s physical safety today, particularly in a society where sexual abuse of children, kidnapping, school violence and other risks are more prevalent, David Elkind, Ph.D., a renowned child-development expert and author of the landmark book The Hurried Child, cautions parents to pay just as much attention to their children’s emotional well-being.
“We’ve had a really extraordinary switch from the time when we were growing up,” he says. “We’re very concerned about children’s physical well-being today – safety belts, bike helmets, supervised organized activities. But we’re much less concerned about their psychological well-being.”
“It may be a matter of control,” Elkind continues. “We have much more control over the physical than the psychological. It’s rather ironic, though, that we’re more concerned about physical well-being than psychological.”
In addition to open communication from early on, Elkind suggests closely monitoring the kinds of media children are exposed to and talking to them into adolescence about issues such as divorce, sex and risky behavior.
“Express your concerns, watch TV programs with them and talk about it. Visit the Internet now and then with them. You don’t have to use surveillance techniques,” he says, “but at least be involved and know what they’re up to.”
At any age, a parent’s job is to teach a child how to navigate the world safely and responsibly. Instead of being flummoxed by a child’s request for independence, realize that those requests are to be expected, says Ginsburg. “Tell the child, ‘I want you to be able to do this. I think you’re old enough. Let me tell you what I need to know in order to be comfortable with it. Let me know that you’re clear about what you need to do to have this freedom.’”
“Of course, kids are going to experiment and make mistakes – that’s the way they learn,” he says. “But you want to make sure you have a safety net in place.”
Ages 5 to 9
Ages 10 to 13
The S Word in Adolescence
Ages 14 and up
Physical vs. Psychological Wellbeing