All of us have been visited by emotional states that we’d rather not feel. Anger, grief, jealousy, frustration, annoyance. Often it can feel like being stuck and you can’t get away from it, until it finally subsides and goes away for a while - but it’s likely to come back right?
As parents, we don’t want to see our child suffer through disappointment, anger, sadness, feeling isolated at school. Whatever it might be, we tend to distract them or talk them out of the way they are feeling, tell them to get over it, fill them with positive alternatives.
We all have our way.
Unfortunately we can’t actually ‘get rid’ of a bad emotion, or any emotion for that matter. Have you ever had that experience of laughing at a really inappropriate moment? Where did that giggle come from? Could you have stopped it from occurring? It’s more likely it was out of your mouth before you had time to stop it. That’s how emotions work a lot of the time.
The more time we spend understanding how our emotional world works the more we can sense when something has pushed one of our buttons and learn to consciously respond, as opposed to reacting. But it takes practice and it’s no small thing, even as an adult.
We naturally want to feel better, none of us want to feel bad and we all develop strategies to cope and like anything, whatever serves us well, we practice. This can lead us to avoiding particular feelings and containing and/or denying them rather than feeling them or expressing them.
When your child experiences a difficult emotion, there are two important tools to use at those times:
Feelings come and go like clouds, take time to sit, breathe and watch them like you would clouds, and they will move on. With really strong emotions that result from a trauma such as a death or an accident, something that your child is likely to be revisited by, explain to them that those emotions are like the tides of the oceans. When the tide comes in, they can be overwhelming and even bowl you over, but the water, like the emotions will subside naturally.
Encourage your child to give emotions their full attention, to feel what they feel like in your body, honour them by allowing them to be there, and in a short time they will go. Explain to your child, like the tides, emotions will go right away and come back again at another time; each time however a little less strong because when you learn to give them your full attention rather than suppress them, their power to keep you stuck diminishes. In truth, there are no bad emotions, it's what makes us human and more importantly, it's what we do with that energy that's important.
Author: Janet Davies
It’s an impossibly difficult phrase to hear someone say. I know I said it to my parents at several points in my youth, and at the time it felt absolutely true.
At school there are times where we were all lonely, picked on, or under lots of pressure. In life I strongly remember saying it when struggling with issues and concepts I could not verbalise, and so I felt isolated from everyone around me.
Turning this statement into a discussion is tough. Reassurances such as “Don’t say that, people like you! What about Sam and Jesse?” can lead to a young person pushing back, especially if conditions like depression and anxiety (which can drastically alter someone’s world view) are involved. This push-back can hinder further talking.
Instead, start by responding with empathy and giving them your full attention. Try showing that you understand—or want to understand—their feelings. Phrases like “I have felt like that before” and “It sounds like you had a rough day” show that you care and give you both more avenues to continue the conversation.
After this, it can help to identify the causes; try asking something like “Why do you feel this way?” Remember, young people can be dealing with issues for the first time. If they don’t want to talk, it may be because they don’t know how to. Ask them to try describing why, and tell them you will do your best to understand their thoughts, no matter how hard it might be for them to express themselves. This display of compassion also helps encourage them to open up.
There are so many resources out there that it can sometimes be overwhelming, but for starters, this article is filled with good advice and information about what I’ve discussed here, and also discusses some ways to overcome these thoughts once a reason or reasons are identified.
The following videos might also help you get a grasp of just what depression can look like.