Negative Emotions and The Importance of Handling Them Well (Take the Quiz!)
I believe our views around emotions are changing, but there’s still a lot of misbeliefs that we may be holding onto consciously or unconsciously. Ultimately this impacts our kids and their experiences of their emotions.
Our beliefs and ways of handling “negative” emotions,
impact our children’s resilience and self-regulation abilities.
Today you’ll be able to check where you are on the continuum of being able to handle “negative” emotions.
First, let’s think about expressions we may have heard when we were children.
“Don’t be such a baby!”
“If you don’t stop crying, I’ll give you something to cry about.”
“Go to your room and come out when you’ve got a smile on your face.”
“Don’t cry over spilt milk.”
“Look on the bright side.”
“That’s nonsense. You’re (fill in the blank with a positive word).”
In previous generations, and still today, it’s common to completely dismiss “negative” emotions or stuff them inside.
The truth is that it’s really hard for all of us to see our kids feeling down, angry, sad, stressed out etc. It may also trigger us.
Our natural tendency is to want to fix things and cheer them up, but this doesn’t teach our children how to handle these uncomfortable emotions. Our e-motions are energy in motion and they are meant to be felt and released not suppressed and ignored.
Let’s see where you are on the continuum… Score yourself out of two for each question – two means “yes” this is what I do.
Take the Quiz – When Your Child Is Upset, Do You…?
- Do you counter your child’s negative thoughts with a positive thought? (Eg. “I hate the way I look.” –> “Honey, what are you talking about, you’re beautiful”)
- Do you try to fix things? (Eg. Your child didn’t get invited to a party. –> You call the other parent to discuss this and see if it was some kind of mistake.)
- Do you respond to your child’s pessimism with optimism? (Eg. “I won’t make any new friends at this new school.” –> “Of course you will, you’re great at making friends.”)
- Do you provide ways to distract your child from his/her painful emotions? (Eg. I’ll buy you a new toy to make you feel better about being teased at school today.”)
- Do you dismiss your child’s feelings and tell him/her to get over it?
Total your score out of ten and see where you are. Ask your parenting partner to do the same.
The Continuum for Accepting “Negative” Emotions
0 = Able to fully accept “negative” emotions 10 = Find it extremely difficult to accept “negative ” emotions
If we can’t tolerate our children’s pain, they will grow up believing that pain is intolerable.
When the emotions don’t feel good, and the energy in our body feels uncomfortable, we usually do all kinds of things to distract ourselves from feeling the uncomfortable emotion.
We may overeat, drink, do drugs, overwork, overexercise, spend hours on the internet, gamble, and take part in any other addictive activity that you can think of.
We engage in these activities to numb the discomfort or replace the discomfort with a “feel good” moment.
For teens who engage in self-harm, they tell me that it lets the pain out and feels good after they’ve cut. (We know that physiologically, when the body is injured, endorphins are released to distract from the pain. Endorphins are our body’s natural chemicals that give us pleasure and pain relief.)
For others, their negative emotions are stored in their body. Dr. John Sarno, now deceased, was a doctor at New York University who dedicated his life to the mind-body connection. After ruling out other illnesses or injuries, he would work with patients who were experiencing chronic pain and had run out of treatment options. He would take them through a process of helping them realize that their brain was creating the physical pain to distract them from “unacceptable” emotions such as anger. Many people who read his best-selling book, Healing Back Pain: The Mind-Body Connection claimed to experience pain relief from reading this book.
How Can I Be More Accepting of My Child’s Negative Emotions?
I have three expressions which I created to help me remember the importance of validating vs. dismissing:
“Feelings First, Logics Last”
“When your child’s in a state, validate, validate, validate”
“All our emotions are okay, all our behaviours are not okay”
~ Sharon Selby
Five Tips for Tolerating Your Child’s “Negative” Emotions:
- Put your “counselling hat” on and just reflect what you see and what you hear: Eg. “That sounds really upsetting.” “You’ve had a really tough day.” “I understand, I’ve felt the same way when something like that has happened to me.”
- If you can’t think of the “right” words to reflect, then use your body language to show that you are listening and you understand. Nod. Sit down and give eye-contact. Say “aha” and “hmmm”.
- If your child is exploding, think of yourself as the container for their emotions. All their emotions are overflowing and you are holding them. (Back to the expression above, “All our emotions are okay, our our behaviours are not okay”, if your child is being aggressive or abusive, then you do need to set your boundaries and let them know that you want to be there for them, but if they’re being abusive/aggressive then that’s not okay and you do need to walk away. For a previous article on Handling Painful Emotions click here and you’ll also see a link to a free pdf poster I created of the Inside-Out Characters and the saying “All Our Emotions Are Okay, All Our Behaviours Are Not Okay”.)
- Remind yourself, that resilience comes from experiencing adversity and being able to recover from it. If our children don’t experience any adversity, they won’t be able to develop resilience.
- Be grateful that your child is not suppressing his/her emotions. Be thankful that your child feels safe enough to share distressing emotions with you and doesn’t need to self-harm to find a way of releasing his/her emotions.
In next week’s article, I’ll share a wonderful mindfulness exercise that you and your children can use for feeling and releasing “negative” emotions.
I’d also like to invite you to join me for two free presentations related to developing resilience and tolerating “negative” emotions, open to the public, and sponsored by Brockton School.
Raising Your Child’s Resilient Quotient (R.Q.) – Click on this Eventbrite link to register and reserve your free ticket. Date: Tuesday, November 21st, 2017. Time: 7:15pm-8:45pm at the Lynn Valley Community Room.
Understanding and Managing the BIG Emotions of Anger/Anxiety in the Tween/Teen Years to Develop Self-Regulation – Click on this Eventbrite link to register and reserve your free ticket. Date: Monday, November 27th, 2017, Time: 7:15pm-8:45pm at the Lynn Valley Community Room.
Lastly, our clinic and Dyslexia BC are showing a very special documentary called: The Big Picture – Rethinking Dyslexia on November 15th from 7pm-8:30pm. (From 8pm-8:30pm, Dr. Glen Davies, psychologist and director of The ABLE Clinic will lead a discussion about the film.) This award winning documentary has been described as a “must-see” for parents of children who struggle in math, reading and/or writing. It’s an emotional, inspiring and uplifting film and also recommended for children ages 10 years and older who struggle in math, reading and/or writing. Tickets are $10 and can be purchased here. I’m personally really looking forward to seeing this film and hope you can attend.
Have a wonderful week accepting all e-motion,
PS. There are still a couple of spaces left in my next round of Self-Empowement groups for 10-12 year olds. (The 7-9 year old group is now full.) In this group, we cover topics related to self-regulation, developing resilience, social dynamics and assertive communication. To find out more and to register, please click “here” and then click on “upcoming groups/events”.
PPS. Some of you who have been connected to me for a while, know that I’ve spent the last year creating a children’s book about anxiety titled: Surfing the Worry Imp’s Wave: Helping children understand and overpower anxiety.
** I’m now looking for 3-5 parents who would like to receive a free advanced copy of the ebook, be willing to write a testimonial, and share your full name and a headshot photo of yourself, to go beside the testimonial on my webpage and promotional materials. If you are interested in being one of these parents, please reply to this email or contact me via the contact tab on my website. Thank you, I look forward to sharing the book with you.
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