Can the sea decide what should be the height of tide or how forceful it is. similarly feelings arise and ebb naturally. Important is during those tide we sail with child to connect and provide an anchor of understanding.
Let me begin with stories of my emotions from childhood and how that evolved with my growing up years (your story may not be very different than mine).
Every time I cried when I was a child, I was asked not to cry and to smile? I should not be sad? I was even made feel ashamed of crying. Eventually I stopped crying and I lost touch with crying. Now when I want to vent out my emotions I am blank. I have forgotten how to cry. Unfortunately, I have not learnt any other way of expressing my feelings.
Another pet injunction was “Anger is not good – you should not be angry”. But what about when I get angry and I actually need to express. Either I feel suffocated if I do not express or I feel guilty when I burst out? What I missed in my childhood was ways of understanding and managing my emotions. I just tagged myself as “an emotional person” not even knowing what it meant.
Zoom in today – I am a successful adult and looks like my incapability to express my feelings have not hindered my success. But meaning of success takes a “U” turn if we are not happy from inside. I ask myself is this true success? Am I really successful; am I happy? Honestly, I have struggled every day to cope up with my emotions. Happiness most often becomes a mirage. Now people tag me as a “too emotional person”!
Let this not happen to our children. Let us together give this gift of ‘FEELINGS” to our kids.
The gift of knowing, understanding, expressing and living life out of feelings, not driven by feelings. Of valuing the importance of feeling. Of being called as an “emotionally balanced person”.
Let us start at the very beginning: that ALL feelings are OK. Yes, actions may not be so appropriate. I can feel angry but, to hit somebody when I am angry, need not be appropriate. But still, my anger in itself is acceptable, is normal, is just a feeling – hence it is okay! I can feel sad – but throwing a tantrum may not be acceptable. But feeling sad is fine, acceptable, normal. There is no need to hurriedly get me to smile. Being sad for time is fine. It is just a feeling, and feelings change, so this too shall pass away. It is ok to be sad.
When somebody acknowledges and accepts my feelings, they empathize with my feelings. I then feel understood. When I am angry, relate to me by saying “you look angry” – do not tell me anger is bad or a lecture on what is right or wrong. Moreover, instead of giving me solutions – give me an understanding of feelings. Instead of judging me, connect with me by asking “You must be feeling terrible”.
TRY doing this with your child next time he is sad over not able to go out. Instead of telling him to just cheer up, instead of making him feel that it is not okay to be sad, just say “you look sad”. Say this few times, show acceptance of the child’s emotions and then see the magic. Given understanding, The child can stand – up! They can accept their own feelings. This helps them understand themselves and leads to ways of managing their emotions.
How does this feel from child’s side – I am okay. When I am okay, my actions are mostly okay – controlled – rather self-regulated. Isn’t my need the true global need – of every individual on this planet ~ “to be understood”.