Emotional expression from our children can feel really hard to deal with. Explore your own experiences with feelings when you were a child, as well as what happens to you now when your child is expressing big feelings. Learn how long a feeling cycle lasts and what you can do to help your child move all the way through it.
Why does it have to be so hard?
When we want to look at things differently, we need to have a different lens to understand what we’re seeing. It is helpful to begin with our own experience with curiosity to discover if there’s something there that can help us understand why we look at our child’s behavior the way we do, especially as it pertains to feelings.
What happened when you were a child and were sad, afraid, or mad? What feelings were ok for you to express? What about your other family members? What’s your story about feelings? I’d encourage you to tell someone else or to write down your experience. Give it words. This helps to integrate your experience.
When your child is expressing something, what happens for you? What’s your first impulse? Do you want them to stop? Do you feel like doing anything to make that happen? Do you have difficulty with the things that weren’t allowed when you were growing up? Be curious.
Our Cultural Rules about Feelings
Our culture has lots of rules about what is acceptable and not acceptable regarding our feelings and how we express them.
Feelings are normal, but when your child begins to express feelings it can feel like it is going to last forever. Feeling cycles last about 90 seconds and if you can be 100% present with them in that experience, most of the time your child will move through the feelings and be done. Sometimes when you first get started, it may last longer from the build up of unexpressed feelings, so please don’t let that discourage you. What I saw with my kids is that once they had the space to express their feelings, they moved through them rather quickly- more quickly than I did, actually. And the time it takes them gets shorter and shorter and outbursts come less and less frequently.
So let’s get started by looking at the concepts of regulation and dysregulation.