Bienestar Emocional en niños y Adolescentes

Emotional Well-being in Children and Teens

Due to "Children’s day" I was asked to write this article about emotional well-being. As I thought about it, I realized that the concept of "emotional well-being" is commonly used but when looked at carefully its not clear what it actually is, it has become a "junk drawer" for almost any topic that includes emotions.

Bearing this in mind, I hope this article helps you understand what it is and how we can help our little ones to develop a state of well-being that helps them in their personal growth throughout their life.

What is emotional well-being?

It could happen that when I hear the words “emotional well-being”, I believe that it means a constant state of peace and contentment. This would be our first mistake, emotional well-being involves acceptance of the emotions that arise, no matter if they are positive or negative. In other words, our goal is not that our children don´t feel sadness, loneliness, anguish, etc. We take for granted that these emotions will arise, but the goal is to be able to feel these emotions and allow them to run their course, without getting stuck in them.

The WHO defines emotional well-being as as “a state of well-being in which every individual realizes his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to her or his community”.

This definition introduces a second concept to the definition: functionality. That is, that the person can function in their day to day life. That the child or adolescent can go to class, meet with friends, be part of family life and carry out those activities that he/she wants to, without difficulty and having a feeling of enjoyment and success.

With everything that has been said so far, we can summarize the definition saying that emotional well-being involves (1) the management and acceptance of emotions; and (2) the ability to manage and enjoy day-to-day activities.

What elements affect emotional well-being?

As it happens in most (if not all) aspects of mental health, there are certain areas that are the basis of an optimal emotional state:

Emotional Management

As mentioned above, the feeling of being capable to manage emotions is essential. Feeling capable refers to the ability of experiencing an emotion, recognizing it and coping with it.

To achieve this, it is important that the parents, or the adults in charge of the minors, set an example by normalizing at home being sad, angry, having a bad day or sharing the good and joyful moments of our day. Let it be seen that emotions are another aspect of life and that allowing the emotion and expressing it, is the way to go with them.

At the same time, appropriate forms of expression should be taught: going out for a run, hitting a cushion, doing breathing techniques or writing in a journal when the emotion is at its highest point (you can find other very interesting articles about expressing emotions written by colleagues in the blog). It will be when the emotion returns to a more relaxed point that we can talk about what has happened.


Stress is defined as a "state of mental fatigue caused by a higher than normal demand for performance.” Stress can be a positive factor; moderate levels of stress during a short period of time can push us to perform tasks that we would not do otherwise. For example, if I don't feel a little stressed because I have an exam, I'm not going to sit down and study.

Stress becomes harmful when it lasts for a long period of time and there is a feeling that the demand from the environment exceeds my abilities. It is at this moment when the feeling of being overwhelmed can appear and things seem to happen to us, instead of for us.

For this reason, it is important to optimally manage academic stress at home. It is important that teenagers understand that academic results do not reflect their value as a person. School is a step to achieve other goals, it has no more meaning than that. Furthermore, if help is needed, it isn´t a failure, it is a success to learn how and when to ask for help. 

It is important to not add more tension to an educational system that is designed to create an environment of competitivity and stress with the idea that children learn how to function in this world. This can be beneficial if it teaches them how to manage the tensions that will arise in daily life, but we need home to be a safe place that reminds them that “no matter what, they will be ok”.

Sleep, physical exercise and eating habits

This trio is the basis of self-care: learning to eat properly, to prioritize the necessary number of hours of sleep, and to include physical exercise activities (or to include in their daily schedules pleasant activities that are done for the simple pleasure of doing them) are essential guidelines for the foundations of adult self-care.

Social relationships

My identity and the image that I create of myself will be established according to what I see reflected in others about me. For this reason, it is important that children and adolescents can enjoy activities with their peer groups. Discovering what I like and what I don´t like, how to relate to others, how to maintain friendships, and achieving a sense of belonging will be the basis for a solid and secure identity.

As Parents, what do we do?

The biggest challenge as parents is to find a balance between allowing them to explore the world and be autonomous, and being a present figure who is always there to welcome them when the world becomes dark and scary. There will be times when the only thing to do is to be there for them and love them unconditionally.

In psychology we never speak of "the good mother" or "the perfect mother", our aspirations are to have "the good enough mother". Being able to allow the expressions of individuality of our children, giving them space, marking the necessary limits/ boundaries and being present is all that can be done. It will be through perseverance and example that children will learn how to accept life and emotions.

Finally, I want to mention the most basic need of every human being- the need to feel loved and accepted. The foundation of our sense of worth will be established by our parents and having an experience of being unconditionally accepted is key to achieving emotional well-being. Teaching the difference between doing and being, or feeling and being, will be key. They can make mistakes or not do what we want, but that does not take away any worth as a person. In a similar way, they may feel bad or helpless, but that doesn't mean they are bad or helpless, I can feel many things but that doesn´t mean that they are true.

Two of the greatest gifts we can give our children are (1)to teach them how to not fall into mind traps (start a life long journey of mind training) and (2)accepting them unconditionally: loving them for who they are, with their way of being and being in the world, without wanting to mold them to our own whim. It doesn´t mean that we stop being honest or that we stop indicating what does not seem right to us, but despite everything they know that we will be there for them.

Andrea Moreno
Division of Psychology, Psychotherapy and Coaching
Andrea Moreno
Adults and adolescents
Languages: English and Spanish
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Experiencing a Support Group for Survivors of Sexual Abuse: Light in the Dark

Experiencing a Support Group for Survivors of Sexual Abuse: Light in the Dark

“Just like the lotus we too have the ability to rise from the mud, bloom out of the darkness and radiate into the world.”

During the last year I´ve had the privilege of leading the first support group for survivors of sexual trauma at Sinews. It was an intense and enriching experience that deeply touched me and I will try to share a little bit of the magical experience with you through this article. I will not only use my own words but also those of some of the participants who sent me their own written accounts of how they experienced the group. I hope that those reading this article will get a feel for what we shared every Tuesday evening.

To start off, I think it would be helpful to really understand what sexual abuse or trauma is, this way we can understand to whom this group is directed. Sexual abuse refers to a sexual act forced upon a woman, man or child without their consent, it is an act of violence that the perpetrator uses against someone they perceive as weaker than them with the goal of obtaining pleasure by controlling and humiliating the victim.

Relevant data on sexual violence from the National Sexual Violence Resource Centre in the U.S.A shows that 1 in 5 women and 1 in 71 men will be raped at some point in their life. The number of men who suffer sexual aggressions increases to 1 in 16 when talking about the student population. Furthermore, 1 in 10 women has been raped by an intimate partner and 8 out of 10 victims knew the person that sexually assaulted them.

This statistical information is relevant for two main reasons: 1. It reveals that sexual abuse isn´t something exceptional that happens to an unfortunate few, in reality it is a social problem that occurs with frighteningly high frequency. 2. It serves to debunk some of the myths that we tell ourselves about sexual abuse and sexual aggression.

Culturally, we have painted a picture in which sexual aggression happens to girls that are not careful, it is always violent, and is usually perpetrated by a stranger. However, this happens in only a minority of cases. Usually, there is already some sort relationship established with the attacker, there is some trust in that relationship and the aggression it is not necessarily physically violent. It is more insidious and manipulative than we might think.

So, with these facts in mind, understanding how trauma affects the human brain and how common emotions in survivors of sexual abuse are the feelings of being alone, judged and misunderstood, this group found its reason for being.

In order to better understand the experience of the group, I´ll start by explaining the way in which our group functions: it is a structured group with the goal of providing the members with a greater understanding of trauma, the psychological consequences of victimisation, and the process of recovery. We undertake a total of 10 sessions, each session has a similar structure and focuses on a different topic, for example: safety and self care, or anger. It is strongly recommended that attendees of the group also participate in individual therapy, it will be the combination of both experiences that will deeply help the healing process.

Each session started with a quick check-in to share how the week had been for everyone, this was followed by a 5/10 minute relaxation technique, with the rest of the session dedicated to discussing and sharing experiences related to a specific topic relevant to overcoming trauma. Lastly, we distributed voluntary worksheets to be completed for the following week. We would always finish with another check-in to evaluate how everyone had experienced the session and to ensure the participants well-being. Understanding and knowing the structure of each session helped participants to manage the anxiety of the unknown, as did knowing each week’s topic in advance.

I have just outlined a very functional description of our meetings, however a much more emotional description was given to me by a participant: “It’s almost as if we all came in with Band-Aids on, took them off for an hour to expose and survey our wounds, and then managed to put them back on with a kinder, healthier adhesive that would carry us through to the following Tuesday when we would be able to safely let our wounds air again.”

A goal of the sessions is to create a support group where participants can share and feel understood by others going through a similar experience. Sometimes, survivors don´t feel understood by friends and family, they feel they have to mask their true feelings or they feel they have to be very careful with how they express themselves. The idea of the group is to provide a sense of belonging to a space where there is no judgment. In the words of one of the participants: “The group provided community, and focused on demolishing our feelings of isolation, providing hope in that we are not alone in our recoveries”. “The knowledge, the camaraderie, the trust, the laughter, the tears. It was a room free of any compounding shame or guilt that we survivors already feel so often”.

Not only is the group a safe environment, guided by a mental health professional, there are also specific rules in place to ensure everyone’s personal and emotioanl safety. As an example, one of those rules is that we don´t share specific details of our own traumatic past experience but focus on the healing process in the present. (It is recommended that said individual experience is worked in individual therapy).

“I have been doing trauma related work for 4 years now, and this was the first of its kind that didn’t allow any of us to disclose specific, personal events. This kept it professional, scientific and gave a comfortable and needed distance from our own specific traumas. This made it easier to learn the facts about general trauma and trauma work. To be honest, at first I was a bit sceptical – a therapy group without talking about my own unique experiences and hurts? How could this be empowering or helpful? But as I attended the first couple sessions I understood the great wisdom in that. It creates distance from one’s own pain and triggers and trauma, thus allowing the healing to take place from a different angle.”

I cannot put enough emphasis on the bravery that is necessary to take that first step and come to the group – imagine how scary and overwhelming it is to share your inner fears and intimate experiences with a group of people. Those days before actually starting the group are beautifully described by one of the participants: “I had minimal exposure to healing from sexual trauma in a group setting and had no idea what to expect from another one, particularly in another continent. I worried about how we would approach topics and share as a group. I worried about not having started on the first day and being behind and disconnected from the other group members. I worried about the possibility of being engrossed in a means of recovery that went against what I’d learned in LA. I worried about language barriers. I worried about comparing my experiences to others. I worried about being triggered. I worried about content and quality. If there was something to worry about as my first day of group approached, trust me, I worried about it. Diligently. In hindsight, to say I was pleasantly surprised that none of my worries came to fruition would be an insult of an understatement. What I found in that group was something that I couldn’t have ever imagined.“

However, once the group started a special kind of magic happened, and the group healing started. The members started bonding and sharing, and in that simple act of hearing and helping someone else with a similar experience, one’s own healing also happens. The realisation that “I´m not alone and that it´s ok to not be ok” starts to take form. Sometimes all we can ask is that, while we struggle to rise from the mud and bloom into a lotus flower, we not be alone. That is what the group is for.

I cannot stress enough how grateful I am for the brave women that attended this first group and how enriching this experience was for all of us. Observing their interactions, how friendships were forged, and the way in which they guided and helped each other is something I will always cherish.

Proofreading and editing: Gráinne Keeshan

Andrea Moreno
Division of Psychology, Psychotherapy and Coaching
Andrea Moreno
Adults and adolescents
Languages: English and Spanish
See Resumé

Forgiveness as a Tool for Psychological Wellbeing

Forgiveness as a Tool for Psychological Wellbeing

Forgiveness is a word we have all heard before, we´ve been taught we “should” forgive and we´ve all made our own interpretations of the word. How many times have we seen little children having to give a kiss and say sorry? Forgiveness is something that we´ve supposedly learnt to do as we grew up. But when given a deeper thought, do we know what forgiveness is? Do we know how to forgive?

The subject of forgiveness seems to be tainted by culture, religion and personal factors. Therefore, throughout this article we will take a look into what forgiveness really is and how we forgive from a psychological perspective.


Enright and Fitzgibbons defined forgiveness as “the desire and willful abandon of the right to feel resentment and related responses towards a wrongdoer, whilst endeavoring to respond based on the moral principle of beneficence, which may include compassion, unconditional worth, generosity, and moral love (to which the wrongdoer, by nature of the hurtful act or acts, has no right)”.

It´s important to understand that forgiveness is an internal process the individual actively chooses to make and does not depend on the offender, it´s the jump from feeling a victim to feeling a survivor. Forgiveness is a gift that one chooses to make.

To better understand forgiveness it´s important to be aware that forgiveness does not mean:

  • Forgetting: Forgiveness and forgetting are incompatible. To forgive it is necessary that there is a conscious awareness of the damage done, if I forget about the damage done I cannot forgive o learn from the experience.
  • Condoning or excusing the offender: The first step in forgiveness is to accept the hurt that has been done to one and validate the idea that one deserved better. The damage is real and it may be inexcusable. Forgiving does not mean that I think what happened was ok, acceptable or “that it wasn´t that bad”.
  • Reconciling: As mentioned before, forgiveness only requires action from the injured. Forgiveness doesn´t require contact with the offender, the relationship doesn´t have to be renewed. I can forgive without contacting that person again. Forgiveness does not require an apology.
  • Accept: forgiveness misunderstood may be accompanied by the fear that we will be placing ourselves in a place of vulnerability where people can further hurt us. This misconception comes from the belief that by forgiving we are letting go of the possibility of justice/ protection. We can seek for justice whilst we forgive, but it´s important to differentiate between seeking revenge and looking for public justice. Furthermore, justice alone may not provide the healing we´re looking for.

Forgiveness is not an obligation, it is a right and a choice that we can make when we want to or feel ready to do so. Deciding to forgive implies making the decision to not hold on to the resentment and changing our perception so that we can understand our offender (not excuse) and grow from that experience.

The Process of Forgiving

Now that we can understand what forgiveness is from a psychological perspective, the next step that would make sense to take is to understand how we forgive. Before we get into it, it´s relevant to mention the importance of being patient and kind to oneself; we cannot hurry true forgiveness, we have to allow ourselves to feel whatever it is that we are feeling and slowly work towards the next steps of our journey in order to truly forgive. Forgiveness in no way entails denying the emotions we may feel towards the offender.

Enright described the process of forgiveness in four phases:

  1.    Uncovering Phase
  2.    Decision Phase
  3.    Work Phase
  4.    Deepening Phase

Uncovering Phase: This first phase is the moment in which forgiveness is probably the furthest away from our mind possible. It´s the moment to feel the damage done and become aware of how it has affected our life. There won´t be real forgiveness unless we accept our feelings and our reactions to it. If we jump towards being rational and understanding without allowing ourselves to feel the damage first, there won´t be real forgiveness, only a pseudo- forgiveness that won´t help our growth.

This is the moment to cry, vent out, rage and feel shameful. We may think about different scenarios and outcomes, and even find ourselves talking to a mirror as if it was our offender. It is to be expected to feel angry and shame, let it out. Journal about it, talk with people and allow it to flow outwards. You have to feel the pain in order to heal yourself.

Decision Phase: the moment has come to decide whether or not to pursue forgiveness. As explained before, forgiving is an active process that requires from us to actively choose to forgive.

Once the emotions have been expressed and as time goes on, there may come a time when we start feeling stuck on our negative emotions and we become aware on how taxing it can be to be fixated on them. The belief that there has to be some other way to deal with our emotions and the situation starts to flourish. This is the moment in which we can start thinking about forgiveness as a real option.

Deciding to forgive is a gift we decide to offer to ourselves, the offender doesn´t have to know nor do we have to believe that “he deserves it”. It´s making the choice to let go of negative emotions and work towards more positive ones.

Work Phase: Once the decision towards forgiveness is made, it´s time to actually do the work to achieve it, that´s what this phase is about. The goal is to change our perception on the offender and to obtain a better understanding of the situation.

In order to obtain this goal, a first step would be to learn more about the offender- his life, his experiences, etc. We make the effort to see the world through his/her eyes and understand what moved him/her to act the way they did. Remember, agreeing with the choices made by the offender or condoning his behavior isn´t our goal, we´re only trying to understand.

With time negative feelings may slowly be released, understanding our offender may lead to compassionate feelings towards him. We may not want contact with the offender again, but we can wish him/her the best in the future.

During the work phase reconciliation may or may not happen. As we already know, contact with the offender isn´t necessary to forgive nor is it necessary to reestablish the relationship in order to believe we have forgiven. Forgiveness can happen without reconciliation and reconciliation can happen without forgiveness.

Deepening phase: as described by Enright and Fitzgibbons (2000), the deepening phase is characterized by the creation of meaning surrounding the offensive incident, the emergence of a newfound purpose in life, the realization of one´s own need for forgiveness, and an increase in positive feelings.

This phase is when we can finally say that we have integrated the experience, a meaning to its existence has been found. We have learnt something from it and in some way it has changed us for the better, perhaps by gaining a new purpose in life.

When forgiveness is truly given, a release of negative feelings happens and a feeling of liberation comes from the new understanding gained. The realization that we are not alone may also come, not only have many others gone through a similar experience to ours, but we can become aware that we ourselves may look for forgiveness from someone in the future. In the end, we are all just trying our best to make the most out of life.

After everything that has been said, now might be time for all of us to look into our “backpacks of resentment” and decide if we are ready and willing to give forgiving a try and see if it does work and makes us feel better.


Enright, R.D. (2010). Forgiveness is a Choice. A step-by step process for resolving anger and restoring hope. Washington DC: APA.

Enright, R.D (2015). 8 Keys to forgiveness. New York: W.W Norton & Company, INC.

Enright, R.D., & Fitzgibbons, R. (2000). Helping clients forgive: An empirical guide for resolving anger and restoring hope. Washington DC: APA.

Andrea Moreno
Division of Psychology, Psychotherapy and Coaching
Andrea Moreno
Adults and adolescents
Languages: English and Spanish
See Resumé

Grief after the Loss of a Beloved Pet: Three characteristics and Recommendations for it´s Resolution.

Grief after the Loss of a Beloved Pet: Three characteristics and Recommendations for it´s Resolution.

Grief is the psychological process of adaptation that comes after the loss of a loved one, it´s a universal experience that almost everyone goes through in a lifetime. The loss of someone dear to us leads to the need of adaptation to a new reality in which our loved one isn´t there. Having this definition of grief in our minds, it comes as no surprise that pet owners go through this same process after the loss of their pets.

This may seem obvious to pet owners. However, it is still quite common to find those who find the intense suffering and pain that pet owners go through hard to understand. Statements such as “you can get a new one”, “it was just an animal”, or “you should get over it” are frequent when someone going through the pain of the loss dares to share their experience with others.

The psychological process of grief that we go through after the loss of a pet is similar to that of a human loss. Grief doesn´t depend on the characteristics of the being that has left us, it depends on the attachment we had with them. Having said this, there are three aspects of pet grieving that could differentiate an animal loss to a human loss: social attitudes, guilt and the absence of rituals.

1. Social Attitudes

In a study lead by Adams et al. (2000) it was detected that 50% of the people that had gone through the loss of a pet felt that society didn´t consider their loss to be worthy of grief. There is no social value given to the loss of a pet, they are considered replaceable, therefore there is no legitimation of the relationship established between pet and owner.

The non- recognition of the suffering hinders the emotional expression of those going through the process. They may feel the need to act as if nothing has happened soon after the loss, or they could stop themselves from sharing how they feel or asking for help for fear of being judged.

Recommendations for those going through Grief:

It is important to surround yourself of people you feel comfortable with and with whom you don´t feel the need to play a role. It is essential to keep doing your day to day activities, but don´t feel you have to wear a mask in order to deal with life.

Finding a group with similar values to your own can be beneficial. It´s important that you feel free to express whatever it is you feel. If you don´t find this in your day to day, remember that nowadays we have a great tool: the Internet. You may find support groups near by or find people you can share your experience with.

Talking is important, talk of all the memories you have of your pet. Share with others what your pet meant to you and what made him/ her unique. Let people know who your pet was.

2. Guilt

Guilt usually plays an important part of pet grief. Two aspects can explain the intense guilt that can be felt: the type of bond we have with our pets and the existence and amount of pet deaths that happen via euthanasia.

On the one hand, the bond established between pet and owner is a dependent one: the animals well-being depends completely on the owner, therefore, the sense of responsibility regarding the animal’s health and well-being impacts directly on the appearance of guilt after the loss. This guilt usually appears in the form of residual feeling of “I could have done something more”.

On the other hand, the decision of euthanizing our pets is always a hard one to make and usually leads to guilt. The comprehension that we have of euthanasia will affect the role of guilt in the process. In other words, the way in which we understand euthanasia and the meaning we give to it will undeniably affect us. Said meaning could go from the perception of the owner as being an executioner to the interpretation of it as an act of liberation for the animals suffering. The harsher the meaning given to the act the more intense the guilt will be.

Recommendations for those going through Grief:

It is important to remember that everything seems more clear with hindsight, we´ll probably always find things that we feel we could have handled better. Remember that you´re human and you did what you could in a complicated situation with the resources that you had.

It may be helpful to understand the way in which guilt helps us feel some sense of control in a situation. If I feel guilty it means that I could have done something about it, I´m no longer a passive victim. But reality is always more complicated, things happen that are out of our control and we can only deal with them the best way we can in the moment.

In a similar way to what we said before, it´s important to talk and to allow yourself to remember. Don´t block the memories. When harsh memories come, use the positive memories as a cushion you can fall on after the harder memories have passed. If talking is hard for you, start by writing. Write what you feel, and the thoughts that come to you. Don´t judge them, just find an outlet for them and let them come out.

3. Absence of Rituals

Funerary rituals have an important role in the resolution of grief. They help to make a formal good bye and to place the loved one in a different mental place. The absence of formal rituals for pets may complicate the resolution of the grief process, leaving a seeming open end without a public and formal farewell.

Recommendations for those going through Grief:

Finding a private and meaningful way to celebrate your pets life will be important, it doesn´t have to be something grand. It´s about honoring your pet’s memory and feeling some sort of closure.


Pet grief is a painful experience, but if you´re going through it remember it also means you´ve had the unique experience of having enjoyed the company of a beloved pet. You are not alone; many have gone and are going through the same experience. Keep on going with your life and don´t isolate yourself. Remember that even though your pet is not with you physically, grief isn´t about saying good bye forever, it´s about placing them in a place in your heart and your mind where you can reach out to them when you need. Finally, remember to reach out for help if you feel you´re stuck in the process, contact a support group or grief counselor near you if you feel the need.

Andrea Moreno
Division of Psychology, Psychotherapy and Coaching
Andrea Moreno
Adults and adolescents
Languages: English and Spanish
See Resumé