Our emotions are there for a reason. We were created to connect and it’s through our emotions that this happens. When our kids are struggling, we can use that time to really connect and foster our relationship with them.
As parents, we experience a wide range of feelings. And how we feel is valid. Are you feeling overwhelmed with all the housework, work, kids, cooking, etc? That feeling is valid. Did your teen come home three hours after curfew? You have every right to be angry. Did your tween lie about who they were with? You have every right to be worried or fearful. Those feeling are valid.
But the feelings you feel are not dictators over your life. They don’t define you or rule over you. They are simply indicators about what’s happening in your body.
In parenting classes, I always stress the importance of teaching emotional intelligence to our kids. Research has shown it is one of the most important things for our kids to become successful and healthy adults. (Read more on EI for your kids here.)
But what about for yourself? Are you emotionally intelligent? What do you think about feelings (this is called meta-emotions)? A lot of our meta-emotions are formed in childhood and early relationships. Some of us think of any negative or uncomfortable emotion as bad and needing to go away ASAP. Some of us think we need to hold in any negative feeling or maybe get it out anyway possible and as quickly as possible. Sometimes, as adults, we have the meta-emotions as we experienced in our childhood, while other times we do a complete 180 and go in the opposite direction.
In order to be an effective emotional support parent, we need to be in control of our own emotions. We need to work to raise our own emotional intelligence. When we learn to label our own emotions, we are in a better place to help our kids do the same. And when we can express and manage our feelings, we can better help our kids do it too. When we take care of our own feelings before they become overwhelming, we can avoid blowing our tops, yelling, or becoming overly anxious. It is OK to express our anger if our kids do something upsetting, we just need to be calm and healthy.
This can look like this: “I am so angry that you hit your brother/broke curfew/lied. I feel so angry I need to take a break to calm down before we discuss this.” OR “I am so frustrated and I feel like I need to take a few deep breathes.”
Remember, it is healthy for our kids to see our emotions. They need to see us struggle, be sad, and be frustrated. More importantly, they need to see us constructively handle those feelings and see us model healthy coping mechanisms. So, when we have anxiety or fear, they need to see us handle it well. When we are so angry we feel like we are going to explode, they need to see us calm ourselves down or take a break before we do something we will regret or that might hurt a relationship. And when we are so angry that we explode, they need to see us apologize and repair the hurt in the relationship. It takes a big person to admit they did something wrong or hurt someone and it takes courage to say you are sorry. Repair is huge in healthy relationships. This is one of my favorite ways to phrase this, “I am so sorry I reacted by yelling because I was angry. (We aren’t apologizing for feeling anger, but for how we reacted.) I said unkind things to you that I didn’t really mean because I allowed my anger to take over. What I should have done is calm myself down before we discussed the issue. I hope you can forgive me for how I reacted.”
Here are a few important points on Emotional Wellness for Parents:
- We can’t expect our kids to manage their own feelings if they don’t see us do it.
- You are in control of you. We don’t have control over anyone but ourselves.
- Learn to recognize your triggers. What sets you off the most? What causes you to feel certain emotions? Take note over the next couple weeks. Try to recognize a small feeling before it becomes an explosive reaction.
- In every moment, there is a moment we can make a choice to react or respond. That spilt second can make the difference between yelling or taking a breath to calm down.
- We can’t do this 100% of the time. It is impossible to be a perfect parent. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t strive to do the best we can in each situation. Our kids deserve it. (The “best” we can in each moment doesn’t mean 100% perfect. It means the best we can under whatever the circumstances are.)
Here are a few questions to reflect on:
- How do you view negative/uncomfortable emotions?
- Do you hold uncomfortable feelings in or get them out as quickly as possible?
- How were you taught about emotions? Were negative emotions bad?
- Do you know how to express emotions in a healthy manner?
- Do you feel there is nothing to do when we are uncomfortable with our feelings?
- Do you yourself practice healthy coping strategies when things get hard?
- Do you know what triggers cause you to feel overwhelming emotions?
- Are you able to tell when overwhelming emotions are coming for you?
- Do you believe feelings should be kept private?
- Do strong emotions like anger make you feel like you’re losing control?
- Do you find expressing emotions as shameful or embarrassing?
- Do you think all your own feelings of uncomfortable emotions are valid?
- Do you see emotions like sadness as a weakness?
(If you struggle with anger or other strong emotions, please consider reaching out to a therapist. We can learn to handle many of life’s emotions with practice, but there are times we need outside help. Reaching out shows your kids how important it is to take care of ourselves. The better you take care of yourself, the better you can take care of your family.)
By: Emily Scott, PhD
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This blog is written as an educational and general resource only. It should not be used to diagnose or as a substitute for parenting or relational therapy, advice, or counseling with a professional therapist or medical doctor. Renewed Hope Parenting is not responsible for results or use of the information provided in these pages if you choose to use them. Everything included in this blog and website is copyrighted to Emily Scott, PhD and Renewed Hope Parenting and may not be used without permission.