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Children and Emotions

Parenting Tweens

There was a time when the general opinion was that children should be seen but not heard. Thank goodness that has changed. Instead, we are now so invested in protecting our children from anything adverse life has to offer. Our intentions are heartfelt and sincere. But in our efforts to protect our children from hardships, we are forgetting one important thing: Feelings are important. The good ones AND the bad ones. Nothing breaks a parent's heart more than seeing your child hurting. But in our hurry to make everything better, to ease the distress, we are telling our child to not feel. When in reality, we should be doing the opposite.

Emotions are incredibly useful. They are our internal compass that tells us when something is right, and when something isn't. They guide us while making decisions throughout our life. While "bad" feelings (I use quotations because all feelings are really good) might be more uncomfortable than good ones, they are just as important. We need to lean into whatever we are feeling at the moment and follow through. Suppressing our emotions won't lead anywhere good.

When your child is upset, whether mad or sad or lonely (for any reason), and you tell her "It's okay, everything is okay", "stop crying", "that's nothing to be upset about". Or any other sentiment meant to get her past the upset emotions and back to her happy self, you are essentially saying that her feelings don't matter, to shove them under the rug. Instead, it's absolutely okay to let your child move through the emotion. Validate her feelings, and trust her intuitive ability to allow that feeling to move her forward. 

In the recent movie Inside Out (which I for one thought was absolutely brilliant), it's made very clear (to both adults and children) how important each emotion is. Maybe anger, sadness, disgust and fear are not as "fun" as joy, but they are all equally useful and important. We need to model this for our children so that they grow up fully in tuned with their emotions. We need to show them that it is okay to feel sad (regardless of how "silly" of a reason we think it is), and we don't need to try to "fix" it by distracting with a treat, or trying to make them laugh. We need to listen, we need to acknowledge their feelings and support them.

This can be hard to do if you are not comfortable with your own feelings, or if you were taught as a child that you should keep your emotions to yourself. But it's so important in order to teach your child to trust themselves. As they grow, their ability to trust their emotions and instincts are going to be paramount in their choices and decisions. And we need to encourage and celebrate that.



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