We know parenting can be a rollercoaster of emotions for both us and our children. It’s crucial for us to support our kids and ourselves through these big emotions, so with the guidance of Suzy Reading here’s how we can go about this!
An accomplished author, psychologist & yoga instructor, Suzy recently joined us on Happy Mum Happy Baby: Parenting SOS to talk about nurturing our little ones emotional wellbeing.
So, what is emotional health, and how can it help guide our little ones in understanding themselves, whilst developing resilience and joy?
Emotional health is not about achieving a state of constant happiness, with the absence of uncomfortable or difficult feelings. Rather, it’s our ability to navigate and weather these challenging emotions. We often think of mental health as an absence of difficult thoughts, but the truth is, mental health is our ability to cope with such thoughts. In the same vein, emotional health is about feeling all our emotions, and more importantly, about moving through them in a safe and healthy way!
Are there good and bad emotions?
In our society, we often label emotions as ‘good’ or ‘bad’, ‘positive’ or ‘negative’. But all emotions serve an evolutionary purpose and have their own place to be felt. Anger, for example, springs us into action when we feel threatened. Anxiety alerts us to potential danger. Guilt helps us align with our moral compass. Sadness invites us to slow down, reflect, and heal. And loneliness nudges us to connect with others. So, there are no good or bad emotions, only emotions that are more or less pleasurable or easy to navigate.
Why should we be encouraging our children to feel all their emotions?
As parents, we naturally want our kids to be happy, but this desire can sometimes hinder them from experiencing, expressing and understanding their full range of emotions.
For example, when something sad happens in our child’s life, the natural and appropriate response is sadness and it doesn’t help them when we try to distract them or rush them back to feeling happy. When we discourage kids from expressing emotions such as anger, this can make them feel ‘wrong’ or ‘bad’ for having these feelings, and it doesn’t prepare children for the realities of life. By allowing our children to experience all their emotions, we equip them with the tools they need to navigate their feelings in adulthood effectively.
As a parent, one of our main objectives is to equip our children with the tools they need to successfully navigate life. One such tool is managing emotions, especially when they seem overwhelmingly intense. We’ll be exploring three main areas: building an emotional toolkit for children, working through emotions after the moment has passed, and coping mechanisms that stressed parents can also adopt.
Building an emotional toolkit for your child
Children experience a vast array of emotions just like adults, but they may lack the vocabulary and understanding to express or manage these feelings. As parents, we can support them by building a rich emotional toolkit. The first step is to encourage our children to sit with their feelings and give them the permission to feel without immediate intervention or action. This not only fosters emotional awareness, but also allows them to fully experience their feelings without fear of judgement.
The second step is naming these emotions. Research shows that having the capacity to label emotions enhances our ability to manage them – it’s a process known as developing ’emotional granularity’. For example, it’s harder to deal with feeling ‘bad’ than it is to tackle feeling ‘frustrated’, ‘resentful’, or ‘bored’. So, encouraging our children to accurately name their feelings can be incredibly empowering, and help them work through them.
Finally, it’s crucial to equip our kids with a variety of practical techniques to help them navigate these emotions. Such techniques may include movement, breathwork, or creative outlets such as drawing or writing. Encourage your child to try different strategies and find what works best for them.
Waiting till the heat has fizzled out
During intense emotional moments or ‘temper tantrums’, it’s incredibly difficult to reason or effectively manage feelings, both for the child and the parent.
Wait for the heat of the moment to subside before attempting to work on ways of responding differently next time. It’s more beneficial to talk it through and shape future behaviour after they’ve calmed down and your child is more receptive. You might even be surprised at the suggestions they offer up too! Think along the lines of “when I am feeling cross, I can…” Generate a few different options together and you could even write these down in a journal for your child to come back to later. Keep adding to your emotional first aid kit together as different experiences come up and this way we can all learn and grow together.
As parents, we should strive to be there for our children during these challenging times, allowing them to express their emotions freely. This doesn’t mean we need to ‘fix’ the situation immediately. Sometimes, simply validating their feelings and being present can be the most comforting response.
A parents guide to keeping cool, calm & collected
As a parent, managing your own emotions is just as important as helping your child manage theirs. Here are some easy-to-use coping mechanisms that you can watch Suzy & Gi act out on our Youtube channel here.
Pressing the back of your hand to your forehead: This simple technique soothes the nervous system, providing an immediate calming effect.
Shoulder shrug and sigh: This can help let go of physical tension and bring a sense of physical relief.
Candle breath: A simple breathing technique where you breathe in through the nose and out through pursed lips, as if gently cooling a cup of tea.
Lion breath: A fun, engaging, and effective breathing technique that can be used with children. Breathe in through the nose and then breathe out through the mouth with the tongue extended as far out as possible, releasing a ‘roar’.
Remember, it’s not only about managing emotions in the throes of big emotions, but also about weaving in regular relaxation practices throughout your day. Consistent practice of these simple techniques can significantly boost both your emotional health and your child’s.
Understanding and managing emotions is a lifelong journey. As parents, our role is to guide our children through this journey and provide them with the tools they need! You can tune into the full episode of Happy Mum Happy Baby: Parenting SOS here, or watch our chat on Youtube.