When it comes to preventing children from engaging in risky behaviors, such as substance use, it is important to understand and apply what the scientific research tells us. In this article we will talk about empathy and motivation, two essential skills children need to develop to be able to adapt and overcome challenges.
Empathy is the ability to emotionally understand what other people feel, see things from their point of view, and imagine yourself in their place. Essentially, it is putting yourself in someone else's position and feeling what they must be feeling. Empathy leads to helping behavior, which benefits social relationships; moreover, things that aid in our relationships with other people benefit us as well. Empathy helps people build connections, regulates emotions, and promotes helping behaviors. For children, empathy can prevent bullying, help them make friends, and receive help from others. Also, parents with strong empathy provide their children with a safe foundation from which children can explore their emotional experiences and seek comfort when experiencing emotional distress.
When young people understand how they feel and can name their feelings, they are better equipped to identify similar feelings in other people. Therefore, it is essential that parents allow their children the opportunity to express their feelings, even the negative ones, to learn how to self-regulate. For instance, encouraging children to tell you when they are angry, sad, or frustrated and engaging with them in a conversation is a great way to build their understanding of emotions, learn how to communicate about them, and practice emotional regulation. The goal is that children learn to communicate their feelings in a healthy way without tantrums, violence, or bullying. Furthermore, talking to children about how another person might be feeling and why they may have responded the way they did help them take different perspectives and build empathy. For instance, share why you cook dinner for your neighbor or why you cleaned your parents’ home. Be sure your kids see you doing these things and that they know why you are doing them. Look for everyday examples too.
When young people are able to recognize situations where others might be feeling sad or hurt, they will be better equipped to know what to do when they witness bullying. They also will be less likely to engage in hurtful behaviors like relational aggression, name-calling, and mean girl behaviors. By teaching them empathy and care, a lot of damage can be prevented and lots of lives will be saved. Many children seek the drug abuse path to run away from their feelings because they do not have a safe space to express their emotions and their needs. Make sure children around you feel safe and valued so they can face the world because they will have to deal with it.
Let us now dive into the science of motivation. Motivation is the process that initiates, guides, and maintains goal-oriented behaviors. It is what causes you to act. Inner motivation, meaning the internal rewards one seeks when engaging in a behavior, can be the best type of motivation, as it improves self-esteem and drives creativity. Parents and adults can help children increase their intrinsic motivation by encouraging their playful exploration of the world because at any age playing can be the most fun form of learning as it involves active engagement, is fun, and helps in their development.
Furthermore, praising the process and the effort rather than the outcomes is a good way to help children get satisfaction from their actions rather than from their reward. For instance, praising a child for getting a gold medal can be a motivation to achieve more, but it can also be a trigger for them to avoid the other activities they may not excel at, so take care and praise the process, the action of even trying is enough; this will give them an incentive to try and to not avoid failure, that way children will understand that with time and hard work they will excel in anything they put their minds to.
It is important to remember to give children agency because kids are more motivated when they have some degree of self-determination and can pursue the tasks which are personally meaningful to them and more likely to stay engaged. The absence of motivation can be really serious as it can contribute to unhappiness and risky behavior such as substance use.
In summary, empathy and motivation are two important emotional approaches for young people. They need to have the ability to express their emotional needs, to feel valued and loved. It’s important to keep them engaged and motivated in a continuous activity with them having a vital role in it. By doing the best of these two emotional approaches they’ll have the ability to grow in a healthy environment with enough emotional support to manage and cope with stressful events or situations in which any person faces.