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