Encouraging Emotions

The past couple of weeks have been overly emotional for my beautiful five-year-old. She always goes and goes, no matter how tired she is, and seems to almost get a second wind the sleepier she gets. Nighttime usually paves the way to some of our biggest heart-to-heart talks. Maybe it’s because she’s finally winding down enough to share her day with her mom, or maybe it’s because she’s tired and it is yet another way to fight off bedtime – either way, she shares her biggest dreams and her deepest thoughts with me.

Two weeks ago, bedtime started triggering endless tears, Kendall constantly crying that she misses her Nana. This could be because she has seen me cry, lots of times (and probably what seems like out of nowhere), but I believe whole-heartedly that our home is a safe place to share our emotions with each other, no matter what those emotions may be. Maybe she’s emotional because she is tired, and doesn’t know another way of fully communicating that without associating her feelings with a particular event. Or maybe, somewhere in her big heart, she truly misses her Nana and is finally understanding the permanency of death.

I have told both of my girls that it is ok to cry, it is ok to be upset, it is ok to be mad, it is ok to be sad – as long as we can communicate our emotions in a positive way. Just because we are mad, we cannot hit or throw things, for example. But we are allowed to express our feelings and share those feelings with others. Our children can share how they feel with us at home, without ever fearing judgement or ridicule. I read once that you should never minimize a child’s feelings, because what may seem minor to an adult, is still a big deal to a child. Listening to them now, when they’re young, and allowing them to open up, encourages that cycle to continue as they get older.

What I forget about our home being a safe place, is that the outside world is not so forgiving and/or understanding. I can shield my children from certain things at home that I cannot shield them from elsewhere. Here I think she’s five, her biggest problem in life is how long she has to play before it’s finally bath time or finding her lost toy in the mess we call a play room, right? Wrong.

Growing up in this generation is tough. This generation encourages a plethora of less-than-ideal personality traits in our children. We teach them that they are entitled; we push them to succeed and if they don’t – we push them harder; we teach them that they can do no wrong; we teach them that they are better than others, or more privileged.

We forget to teach them that it’s ok to lose, there is nothing wrong with losing – and there is nothing wrong with congratulating the winner and even being proud of them for winning. We forget to teach them to be humble, maybe they have more than the next child, but that doesn’t mean that they’re better than anyone, that means they should appreciate what they have and help those less fortunate – not make fun of them for something out of their control. We forget to teach them accountability and honesty, we make excuses for their behavior instead of taking the time to make it a learning opportunity. Sometimes, we are just busy, maybe too busy to notice our children are growing up quickly and it is our responsibility to make sure we are nourishing their souls with what will help mold them into outstanding adults some day.

I recently listened to a group of moms, talking about how “bad” their children are, one mom admitting to “popping her [daughter] in the mouth,” any time she back talked about putting her laundry away. The same mom talked about how obese her daughter is, to the point I would consider the mom to actually be making fun of her daughter. Not one of the other moms talking to her even acted surprised or disgusted, but rather they jumped in to discuss the shortcomings of their children – all of them laughing at the others’ stories.

Meanwhile, I stood by, watching through the window (unable to NOT listen to the conversation) as my daughter did somersaults and cartwheels, clapping for her and exchanging a thumbs up as she finished. She knew I was there to watch her and support her – I can’t imagine what her fellow classmates would feel if they knew they were being made fun of by their moms, while they were out there giving dance class their all.

Today, my beautiful girl came running down the hill from preschool in hysterical tears. Two friends had told her that they didn’t want to play with her, her heart was clearly breaking. As we saw one of those two friends running down the hill to her mommy, I encouraged Kendall to go give her a hug. I knew if she did, she would realize that the situation was only temporary and it didn’t mean they weren’t friends – just that sometimes she isn’t going to be included and that’s ok. It didn’t mean her friends didn’t want to play with her ever again, it just meant that they wanted to play together alone this time.

The other girl’s mommy and I are friends and I felt comfortable enough to share the situation with her. Not because I needed her to reprimand her daughter, but because, how can I tell Kendall it’s ok to express her feelings if I am not going to be there to help her process them? I want to commend that mommy as she and I texted later, her telling me that her and her daughter had used it as a learning experience – reversing the situation for her daughter and asking her how she’d feel to be left out. She had taught her daughter accountability, she had encouraged her to process her emotions, she did the right thing.

The problem is, other moms are not always going to be so understanding and I’m not always going to be able to reach out to other parents. I won’t ever be able to protect my daughter from the actions of others, but hopefully I will have prepared her enough to be able to deal with them – positively – on her own. I hope I can help her understand her self-worth and not let anyone steal her confidence or break her spirit. I hope that I will always be her safe place and that she will not replace that with what her peers say or do, I want her to always stay true to herself – even when it’s hard to do so. I will always encourage her to be her best version of herself, without pushing her to be someone or something that she’s not. I will always love and support her, I’ll always be her biggest fan.

“If your emotional abilities aren’t in hand, if you don’t have self-awareness, if you are not able to manage your distressing emotions, if you can’t have empathy and have effective relationships, then no matter how smart you are, you are not going to get very far.” – Daniel Goleman

© 2018 Lauren Johnson; http://livingthroughherlegacy.com

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