I’m covering emotions in this blog because I want to take a slightly different view on emotions.
It’s really important for us as adults to talk about emotions – how we’re feeling and how we’re managing them, so that our children learn that emotions are normal and they learn, from us, different ways of managing them.
Prefer to listen? Just hit play!
“We know that for some children expressing or recognizing their emotions can be very difficult.
So how can we help our children learn more about their emotions and express those in ways that are safe for those around them?”
So often emotions are something that we don’t necessarily recognise, or express, or feel. I think that’s probably a British thing – there’s that sense of a stiff upper lip, and it makes us not feel comfortable sharing our emotions or talking about them.
Growing up, we were often taught to brush our emotions under the carpet, so now as parents and carers, when we’re thinking about how we can help our child with their emotions, it can be really difficult – we will often second guess whether we should be sharing our feelings with our child.
When we’re thinking about how we talk to our children about their emotions, we need to first take a a step back and understand our own emotions – not just how we feel but how we react to our emotions too.
For some of us we may have grown up in an environment where it wasn’t ok to be angry – it wasn’t an emotion which was acceptable in the family home. Or you may have grown up in an environment when anger was the only emotion in the family home. We have to understand our own emotions if we’re going to help our child develop their own emotional intelligence, and that’s not always an easy thing to do.
We also know that being a parent, we may have found new emotions that we haven’t felt before. We may be realizing that we’re much more triggered than we’ve ever been in the past – we all know how good our children can be at pressing our buttons and triggering us, we often find that we’re becoming much more shouty than we ever thought we would be as a parent, and that’s not easy either.
I remember wondering where this screaming banshee had come from when my son first moved in. I was surprised by that – it was never how I’d imagined I’d be as a parent. But what I was going through emotionally required me understand why I was expressing it in this way. We have to learn about ourselves first before we can start to support our child.
If we expect our children to only ever appropriately show emotion, but we never show them how to do that, or express emotion, how are they going to learn?
If we never say “actually I’m really sad because that happened and I’m feeling upset, so I’m just going to go and curl up on the sofa for a few minutes with a cup of tea and cheer myself up”, our child isn’t going to know what sad is, or that it’s ok to be sad.
The same goes for if you’re feeling really happy, it’s ok to share that! Or if you’ve had a stressful day at work – it’s ok to share that too – we’re normalizing that emotion and we’re showing them how we manage it, and from that they will learn intuitively.
By doing that our children are learning that all of the emotions they’re feeling are normal. That includes anger, fear, happiness, sadness, madness, frustration, excitement, even shame! They are all normal emotions but it’s how we manage them that helps us to move forward.
If we can start recognizing our own emotions and connecting to them, and explaining them to our children in an age appropriate way, and showing them how we are releasing or dealing with that emotion – our children start picking up from this.
By showing our children that emotions are normal and that we recognize how they’re feeling, and they can see that we have those same feelings too, we’re creating that stronger bond and showing them that they’re not the only people who feel those things – they’re not different because of how they feel.
Like with everything, it comes from us as the adults taking the lead. We cannot expect our children to understand and manage their emotions if we ourselves don’t understand or manage our own emotions.
When we are able to connect with our own emotions, we then become able to connect with our children in a different way.
If we want to have an emotionally literate society, then we need to start sharing our feelings and talking about it.
It’s normal to have good days and bad days – we can make sure our children know and accept that, and know how to deal with it. We can also help our children recognize emotions in other people and grow their empathy too.
We can’t expect our children to manage their emotions if we don’t show them how.
If you are a parent or carer and would like more support on how to share your emotions with yoru child and begin changing your their behaviour, you can come and join us over in The Connective Parenting hub, where I do weekly Ask Me Anything sessions to help you with exactly this!
If you’re a professional who works with children and families, click here for more helpful resources and support.