Here’s a blog and a radio interview from Anna Goodwin from Stress Free Mums.
I typically work with multi- tasking mums between the ages of 35 and 45 who feel overwhelmed and frazzled. I help them release stress and exhaustion – giving them more energy to juggle multiple tasks with ease so they can have fun and be fulfilled in work and play.
I am a mum of two and 10 years a secondary school teacher. I have a good understanding of the complexities that families face. An effective listener, approachable and intuitive, I have the ability to bring about change in the way we see themselves. I am an advanced practitioner in EFT (Emotional Freedom Techniques), a Matrix Reimprinting practitioner and a matrix birth Reimprinting practitioner.
How do we talk about emotions with our children?
Introduce emotional skills before they are needed
Whether we are helping children to deal with pain, social worries, learning blocks or stressful situations, teaching our children to talk about their emotions is one of life’s lessons worth practising. It might be good to remember that talking about emotions is a skill… whether you find it easy or difficult, practice is the ‘way forward’! It is best to introduce the ideas (below) before your child has a major emotional melt down. When a child is having a really hard time it is difficult to get them to focus on anything, let alone something new. By teaching your kids how to talk and act under normal circumstances will make it much easier when things become more difficult.
Complex emotions… and an attempt to simplify them
Emotions are essentially information. Our system letting us know what’s going on physically or emotionally in our body. For example if I put my hand on the cooker – my hand starts to hurt, telling my body to move away. Emotions are not much different… Children tend to look for empathy and understanding, and if you as a parent don’t hear the message they are trying to send you, the messenger often gets louder and louder until you hear! It’s worth remembering, that children’s emotions go from 0 to 10 (and sometimes back again) rather quickly and are much more acute than those of an adult: they are also more short lived with less shades of grey.
As a parent confronted with a child experiencing big emotions our first response is often to try and persuade them out of feeling this way. We want nothing more than our children to ‘feel better’ and one of the first miss-steps we often make is to tell them how they are supposed to feel. Common phrases such as – ‘it’s not that bad’, ‘try not to worry’ ‘calm down’, or ‘stop crying’ are rarely successful. Every-time we do this we dismiss or minimise these strong feelings, teaching our little ones to squash their emotions – leading them to develop the idea that ‘there is something that is wrong’, or ‘I’m not being heard’.
‘In the moment’
Unfortunately, most of us in a place of high emotion are unable to hear or think clearly; no more so than when a child is angry. Having activated the fight, flight or freeze response (see pervious blog) – the thinking brain has shut down and only the reptilian (survival state) brain still functions. There are many other aspects at play here – but the bottom line is we cannot reason with our children when they are experiencing high emotion.
In that moment, rather than giving them advice, trying to reason with them or even asking how they feel, try to just ‘be’ with them. If we think we understand what they are experiencing and have preconceived ideas, we are not really listening, and more often than not, we then try to fix the problem! Be with them in the moment, demonstrate that you are engaged and are listening; try not to make value judgements; and not over-estimating or under-estimating – just be present.
There will a point at which your child feels listened to and safe – this is the time to try some ‘heart centred breathing’. This is (in my experience) the quickest way to ‘take the edge off’ restoring the body and brain back into harmony. It wont ‘fix’ it completely but it will hugely help your child get back to normality. You will know when it’s the right time – maybe ask, ‘it looks like you’re having a really hard time do you want to try something relaxing’?
Hold their hand, place it on their heat area – ask them to imagine a balloon blowing up inside their heart. Breath deeply in for 3 and out for three – do this with them. Repeat for as long as they need. Also, ask them to breath in a colour and a smell that would make them feel good again. This will allow the brain to think that all is well again and allow the brain to restore to full function and in doing so restore the body back into harmony.
Creating a space where our children feel they have permission to talk freely about what’s going on is key. This might be just after the ‘high emotional state’ or it could be later in the day. I personally find that last thing at night, when they are tucked up in bed is the safe space they need to help them to fully express what’s ‘really’ gong on… a space where they feel that it’s ok to share… a space where they don’t feel like what they say has to be ‘right’, or have approval. What’s useful here is to remember is that the emotion in that moment is just a piece of the puzzle. The key is to build rapport in the relationship rather than have an immediate outcome.
Questions worth asking are:
- ‘What happened today’? (try and get your child to keep it simple – you want them to tune in to howthey felt – not to re-trigger them. Just listen)
- Now ask, how are they physically feeling? How does angry feel in your body? If they need help givethem 3 options, making one of them really silly! (which gives them permission to be creative with whats going on for them). For example; does it feel like your fists are clenching, your chest is beating hard or does it feel like lava is going to come shooting out of your eyes?
- Share your experiences with them. For example: ‘when I do something new for the first time I also feel a bit nervous and it feels like my limbs are going to shake off’ or ‘when I’m mad my face feels like it’s on fire’. This will provide an opportunity to grow your bond but more importantly normalise emotions.
- 4. Lastly ask them:‘What are three good things about today?’What didn’t they like about today.‘If you could change one (or two) things about today what would it be?’ Finally ask ‘What is something you are hoping will happen tomorrow?’
Sometimes they need more than this to ‘let go’ of the days dramas – then I would strongly advocate doing some ‘tapping’ – It’s safe, relaxing and fun. Please see my video on this for steps on how to ‘tap’ with your child.