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Teaching Our Child to Express their ‘Negative’ Emotions
The first step in taking responsibility for ourselves and coming to know and love ourselves, is identifying, understanding, feeling and expressing our ‘negative’ emotions; self-esteem is based on the acceptance of all thoughts and feelings as one’s own. If we want our child to take responsibility for themselves and come to know and love themselves, we need to help them identify, understand, feel and express their emotions in the same way that we accomplish this task. In this way, they will learn to see feelings as information. As we learn to balance our own emotions, we are better able to show our child how to balance their emotions. It is through the sharing of emotions that we build our connection with our child and genuinely come to know them.
The best-selling book “Self-Esteem” suggests the following ways for helping children specifically with expressing their strong, ‘negative’ feelings in a healthy manner:
- “Encourage little children to growl, hit a pillow, or stamp their feet to express angry feelings. Older children might draw a pic or write a letter or telephone a sympathetic friend to tell them what happened. Sports and strenuous physical activities can provide another outlet for strong feelings.
- Encourage your children to use their imagination to express their feelings. Do you want her to disappear? Be invisible?
- Share a story about yourself in a similar predicament, feeling similar things. Your child can feel that she is not alone in her feelings and take comfort that you understand.
- Be a good role model in how you deal with your own strong feelings. Share some of your own coping skills.
- Help your children feel good about themselves even in the face of defeat or disappointment e.g. “Even though you were lost and confused, you had the good sense to ask the saleslady for help. How did you think of that?”
Just prior to my mother-in-law’s funeral, I read about the need for a child to “own” and express their feelings fully, without judgment or curtailment. I came to understand that when we tell our child that their feelings are wrong or inappropriate, our child doesn’t feel safe. When my mother-in-law’s funeral service ended, our family and friends began filing out of the church, while my daughter, Paige, at the age of six, sat on my lap crying. She cried and cried and cried, long after everyone had left the church. I held her, gently telling her to let it all out. When she finished crying, we left the church and climbed into the limousine to attend her grandmother’s burial. Years later, Paige had the same full release of sadness and pain when her dog was attacked by another dog and killed instantly. I noticed in both cases, that she never cried about either death again; she didn’t have the need because she had fully released her tears, as opposed to burying her feelings. Did she still experience sadness months and years later? Yes, of course, but the intensity of that sadness was entirely gone, which meant that no “emotional blocks” had been created. This means that she will not be triggered by those same or similar events again later in life. This also means that she will not develop negative behaviour or patterns, in order to be heard, because she is at peace with those painful events in her life.
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As always, I welcome your feedback. Please share your stories on this topic and encourage others to help their children express themselves! Would you like to connect? You can reach me via email or phone, leave a comment right here on the site, or click the connect tab at the bottom of the screen if you are reading this post on the website.
Until next time,
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