By Sherrie Campbell, PhD
Our children are our lifelines. We have ideas and images of how we want them be, feel and grow. However, sometimes we are so wrapped up in our own perception of whom and how we want our children to be that we lose sight of who they uniquely are all together. This creates an emotional disconnect that can be a breeding ground for low self-esteem, feelings of rejection and not being good enough in our kids — feelings that can lead to depression and anxiety.
5 Mistakes Made Parenting the Emotions of Our Children
1. Getting Annoyed: When our child is not living up to what we expect, we label them as being “too sensitive” or we feel there is something “defective” about them because they can’t or don’t have the confidence to do something we think is a no-brainer. The minute the annoyance is displayed, the child is shamed, which increases the original fear.
2. Invalidate: When our children feel what they feel and we don’t understand or agree with it, we invalidate them. When we invalidate their emotions we make them “wrong” or “bad.” They should feel the way they are feeling because that is what is naturally coming up for them. We may not have that same sensitivity but it is not right to insinuate their sensitivities are less important than ours or someone else’s.
3. Push them to feel differently: When our children have a fear of something and we want them to get over it, we push them to feel differently. They end up feeling misunderstood and alone. The more we push, the worse we can make their emotional state and the less likely they are to move through it. When we push, we are not in alignment with what our children are experiencing emotionally, therefore, we can destroy our potential to connect with, understand and move them through their issues correctly.
4. Punish the emotion: When children hear that it is “ridiculous” in some form for them to feel how they feel, we take away something from them as a result, whether that be an opportunity or we withdrawal love we are punishing them for being human. We may not understand the emotions or even agree but to punish them is not correct. We can punish behaviors which are more black and white, but not the emotions.
5. Do Nothing: Sometimes when we don’t know what to do we freeze and leave the situation alone, assuming if they need something, they will ask. This can be good at times, but other times, it is really important to at least knock on their emotional door and reassure them they are not alone. Never assume because they shut you out they want to be alone.
We are emotional creatures. There is no right or wrong when it comes to the internal world. As parents, we need to create the space and language of reassurance our children need so the emotions can come, can be seen as normal and can be talked about, which allows the emotions to pass through. When we resist what our children feel, we reject them. They learn their emotions are bad, they repress them and then reject themselves. We must validate what they feel — not always what they do, but we must validate what they feel. It is the emotions which caused them to act in the way they did. If they can learn which feelings cause them to act certain ways, we teach them to know themselves and to emotionally balance their choices. We have to be flexible and available so we can be where our children are at emotionally. This is what helps them to bond with us, others and most importantly, to love themselves.
Little Life Message: If we do not recognize and empathize with the emotions of our children, they shut us out by shutting themselves off.
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