I grew up in a home that didn’t necessarily welcome “big” emotions. A majority of the time, my parents were quick to dismiss how I was feeling; blaming it on a “phase” or “hormones” or even playing it down to just “being a girl”.
I can semi-see where they would assume this mentality. I came out of the womb with tears in my eyes. I am an empath and highly-sensitive person by all definition of the term(s). Add anxiety to the mix, and I myself will easily admit that I am a lot to take on. I also realize that it’s difficult to empathize with someone’s feelings without seeming in genuine, especially when it comes to a situation or experience you’ve never had to deal with before, or think is trivial.
When I had my daughter, motherhood gave me this overwhelming pull to do better when it came to not only hearing her voice but listening intently to it and honoring those feelings. It’s something that I battle with, because coddling and acknowledging ride a very fine line. I want her to be fully capable of dusting herself off when she faces adversity, but also want her to know that when she falls, her dad and I will be there open-armed, dust pans in hand.
- Use your words: My girl isn’t quite there yet in terms of vocabulary, however, it’s never too early to start implementing talking it out. When I was a kid, all I wanted was to be heard, even if it sounded stupid to the adults. What may seem like something so insignificant to you, could be tearing our little ones up inside. Keep in mind that these babies have no idea what to do with their feelings. They are raw, unfamiliar, and overwhelming. Your reaction to “spilled milk” will give them to the confidence to problem solve at a calmer, more rational level.
- Be a sportscaster: Give them a play-by-play of what triggered their reaction. Walk them through the situation and then ask them what about it made them so upset. If they can’t articulate, ask questions. By doing this, it not only shows them that you are acknowledging their feelings but also gives them time to process the event and come down from it in a healthy manner.
- Hug it out: Never assume that withholding physical comfort from your kids will make them stronger in the end. Science will tell you that infants and toddlers cannot be “spoiled” by love. If your baby is craving a hug or affection from you, it’s up to us as their parent(s) to pick up on those cues. Even during a temper tantrum, if my daughter wants me to pick her up, I will do so. It’s during that time that I calmly speak to her about why she may be upset, even knowing that she can’t really answer me (be it that she’s only 15 months) It will help develop her communication skills.
- Formulate a game-plan: I’m a visual learner, so being able to see things laid out in front of me makes all the difference when it comes to processing information. Sit down with your kiddo (if applicable) and discuss some different ways that they can teach themselves to self-soothe from an emotional episode. Whether it’s counting, reading a book, laying down, writing it in a journal, or listening to music…jot some ideas down, laminate them, and make sure they are accessible for the whole family to see and use. It’s a great way to get everyone involved. If you have a little one, find out what works for them. Distraction is key – coloring, blocks, redirection, whatever works for your
- Take a respite: If all else fails and your kiddo has hit their emotional wall, take a breather. Put your babe in a safe, quiet environment, while you follow suit. Sometimes you can provide all the care and love in the world and it still won’t be enough. That’s okay! Walk away and go have a glass of wine, or don’t. Maybe you like to exercise. And Maybe I like to eat a gallon of cookies ‘n cream ice cream. To each their own…
- Put on your kids shoes: How you feel after a client yells at you for 45 minutes straight is equivalent to how your toddler/kid feels when they stub their toe, or are told that they can’t eat dog food or play in the toilet. Is it the same? Obviously not. But you have to consider the circumstances, even if you don’t understand. Kid life is rough, man.
Parenting sucks in that our kids are a direct reflection of their environment. They are looking at us to inspire, lead, and guide them through everything from the mundane to the unexpected; so our responses to everyday life will leave a lasting impression for them to emulate. This is a blessing and a curse. All you can do is make an effort to ensure that those impressions are ones you’d be proud to pass on or at least make sure that the ones you aren’t so proud of are done when they aren’t around!
Either way, love them hard and embrace their individuality. If they came into the world with big emotions, teach them to use them in a productive and meaningful way, but whatever you do, don’t discredit them.