When our kids experience painful emotions
, we often instinctively spring into fix-it mode and try to hurry those feelings right out the door. Painful feelings aren't fun OR happy and humans are obsessed with fun and happy. No one has time for disruptions to a happy life. Painful emotions are uncomfortable and we want them gone. Do any of these statements sound familiar?
"Oh, it's ok!"
"Oh, it's not that bad..."
Those statements sound innocent and loving enough, right? And they most certainly come from a good and loving place in our hearts. On the one hand, they ARE ok, and from our perspective, it WASN'T that bad, and we just want them to know that.
Part of the problem is that we are forgetting that emotions are regulated from an entirely different part of the brain than logic and reasoning. It is simply ineffective to tell a brain that is flooded with emotion to use logic. The communication lines from the emotions center and the logic center are offline, and getting them back online takes a little time, presence, and patience.
We are sophisticated, living beings, wired to experience a range of emotions as a way of interacting with the world around us. We are designed to respond with emotion to what happens around us in a way that equips us to handle it properly and move forward well.
Feeling feelings means we're paying attention. However, every feeling isn't aligned with the truth so being present with our emotions is vital. When we stop, quiet our racing thoughts, get present in our bodies and embrace what is happening within us, we are better positioned to discern the origin and helpfulness of what we're experiencing. We can choose to resist the emotion or we can get curious about the emotion, explore it, and allow it to move through us.
Preparing Yourself First
In order to be a source of support to our children in times of emotional upset, it's important to be grounded in the truth that experiencing emotions is normal, healthy and good. And that learning how to manage those emotions is a lifelong journey.
Remind yourself that you don't always have the most helpful perspective in life either and this has caused unnecessary emotional suffering in you that could've been avoided with a greater level of emotional maturity and presence of mind. And then remind yourself that their brains are not fully developed (and won't be until around age 25), and so their capacity to manage their emotions is even less than yours.
I think a fool-proof first step is using words of understanding and creating a space where they feel safe. Sometimes a hug helps. When a child feels seen, heard, understood and safe, they are free to begin the courageous journey of their feelings.
Helping your Child Through their Feelings
What if instead of running away from their pain, you encouraged them to run toward it and get curious about what it was showing them? What if you encouraged them to open their hearts to the pain and really feel into it? Can you, as a parent, imagine that instead of their pain crippling them they actually gained greater awareness, empathy, and strength? Believing this first as their supporter is important, as they will be able to discern any fear, frustration, or impatience you carry.
A Beautiful and FREE Tool to Help
- learn to name of a wide range of difficult emotions
- label their emotion and journal about a situation that brought up that painful feeling
- be encouraged to get curious about where the emotion is coming from
- learn to breathe deeply and be fully present with their emotions, giving it time
- learn to think of the situation from another person's perspective to gain empathy and greater understanding
*These printables are not designed to take the place of professional support if that is called for. If your child is dealing with bigger, heavier life issues, please seek out professional help.
What ways have you found to be helpful when your kids experience difficult emotions? We want to learn from you!