My children’s BIG emotional reactions used to freak me out. Unconsciously of course. If they would lose their emotional footing, I would crumble along with them and when I did, I would lose touch with my ability to actually help them!! Sometimes I would have almost an out of body experience. I would see myself over-reacting to my daughters meltdown and KNOW that what I was doing was not only NOT serving her, but was not serving me either.
Most of the time it would end in tears, raised voices and what felt like a chasm between us.
Until I realized that my truest power in these situations came from me being courageous enough to stay centered and connected to love all the way through to the end of whatever BIG emotion she needed to get out.
Now, many of you may be reading this and say “Well, if being connected to love means letting her get away with bad behavior, you’ve lost me!!”
No, this isn’t about that. The reason why many moms (and dads too) have a hard time being with their children’s oversized emotions is that the emotion triggers us emotionally and we get stressed! Their emotional state sends us in to panic. We want to help, but it is too much for us, our child won’t or can’t listen to reason, it triggers emotional imbalances in us and we react from STRESS – often resorting in aggression from our side. Ultimately a stress reaction of this kind is about US, not our child.
We have to understand that our children WILL have emotions that we don’t understand and at an intensity we may not find “normal” or “rational”. Who cares!!! Placing adult expectations on our children’s behavior makes as much sense as expecting a tug boat to go as fast as a speed boat. That expectation will always create frustration.
Parenting from the heart, or with a soft focus on our child’s state of mind instead of our own, allows us to truly help our children. Why? Because that simple shift from YOU to THEM opens the door to compassion, understanding, empathy, trust, centeredness, peace, and patience. It is learning to parent from here that allows us to truly see and acknowledge our children’s emotions and support them in their emotional growth.
So here are my 5 tips for supporting your children emotionally.
1. Shift your Focus – Practice today responding to your children’s behavior (positive or negative behavior) with a focus on THEM and not you. For example, if your son comes home crabby from school, instead of letting that energy infect how you feel and ruin the rest of the evening, put your feet in his shoes. Instead of losing your cool, you empathize and give him space, make him comfortable, make a lovely snack and when he is ready how about a hug? This isn’t coddling, this is compassion. What would you like someone to do for you if you had a crappy day at work? What would help you the most?
The Learning -> Showing your child empathy, understanding and compassion cultivate those values and skills in him as well.
2. Get Curious – Most of us, as parents, fall easily into the idea that we know best. We constantly tell our children what they should do, what they should not do and everything in between. Now, don’t get me wrong. A lot of times we do know best. But when it comes to the emotions of our child, we never know truly what they are feeling. We may think we do, but in order for us to really know, we must ask questions. But special kind of questions. Not the yes/no variety, but the open ended questions. One of the most amazing things about my father (and there were some pretty amazing things about that man), when I was going through difficulty growing up, he would always ask me, “what do you think you should do?”
The Learning -> This communicates to your child that her emotions are valuable, real and that they matter.
3. Feel Your Emotions – Most of us bottle up our emotions. Seriously. We think we feel our emotions, but we really don’t. Most of us walk around with a ball of unresolved, or as I like to call it UNFELT, emotional issues. I talk about this in my upcoming book (to be published this year), but it is my belief that our emotions are meant to be felt. What if our children were able to feel an emotion fully without being told to be quiet or calm down? You see all emotions (big or small) have a beginning, a middle and an end. When our children are having a meltdown, the best thing to do for them is to create a safe space either in your presence or away from you, where your children can FEEL their emotions. If you stay centered and non-reactive, you allow your child to go though the emotion and come out the other end. And they will!
Now, if you have unresolved emotions that seem to be getting in the way of your ability to respond from love, schedule a session with me as I have a technique that I can do with you in a one on one setting that can help you drastically relieve the stress resulting from this.
The Learning -> This process of creating safe space allows the children to feel their emotions fully, being released from the need to bottle this energy up. It is an amazing gift to give to your child that will instill healthy emotional processing for life.
4. After the Fact Processing – Sometimes I loose my temper. Sometimes my children and I fight. It has taken me years to not feel guilty about this. Of course, I used to be a lose cannon, flying off the handle at the slightest provocation. Now, it takes a lot for me to loose it. But the thing is, I don’t want to live in a house where discord or confrontation don’t happen! The reality is that even in the discord, the chaos, we learn. My daughter (10) told me last time we argued, how lovely it was after. We sit and we talk and we process what happened, we talk about our feelings. We get deep. Now, I don’t enjoy yelling, and when I do it is always because something is out of whack with me. I tell her this and we talk about what we need more of in our life, what we need less of. She tells me what is going on inside her head, I listen and we CONNECT so profoundly.
The Learning -> Everything that happens (good and bad) has the power to guide you into a deeper connection to yourself and to others. By teaching our children how to LEARN from their mistakes or from their behavior, it deepens their emotional understanding of themselves and others.
5. Stay Centered – Being grounded or connected to your center may be one of the the most important things you can do when helping your children navigate their emotions. When we unconsciously react from stress, we are reacting from an ungrounded state. Your job then is to stay anchored to your center. I do this often by setting the following intention at the beginning of each new day – “On this day, nothing will take me away from my center” or “By staying calm I am a mother I can be proud of.”
The Learning -> The foundation of all relationships is energy. By presenting a grounded energy, you are creating this safe space for your children to explore and feel their emotions. Not only does this help them navigate through their emotions, but teaching them, by soaking in your energy, that connecting to ones center is the anchor of the emotions.
I would love to hear what you do in your family to support the emotional health and development of your children!