Kids tell me they don’t like feeling tough emotions like anger, sadness, guilt, frustration and disappointment because – not only is it uncomfortable – they also think, ‘this is it, this is how I’m always going to feel.’
A few weeks ago, my 10-year-old son was so upset. I could see him desperately trying to hold back his tears. I said, ‘It’s OK to cry.’ He gave me a frustrated look and said, ‘I don’t like feeling this feeling.’ which triggered him to cry causing him to get even more upset.
Think back to when you were a kid… didn’t tough emotions and challenging times feel permanent?
Later that night when he was in a calmer state, we had a reflective conversation. I asked, ‘How are you feeling now?’ He replied, ‘I’m feeling happy.’
I asked, ‘How were you feeling this morning?’
‘Upset, frustrated and angry.’
‘Did you think those emotions were going to last forever?’ he responded with a resounding ‘YES!’
‘And how are you feeling now?’
‘So did that feeling of sadness last forever?’
He thought about it and firmly said ‘NO!’
We then had a conversation about other times in his life where he faced a challenge or made a mistake and it triggered emotions. I reminded him that he always got through them including now.
Even though we may not like feeling the emotions brought on by challenging circumstances, they can’t be avoided no matter how hard we try. Sometimes they get really intense and then subside like waves. We need to teach kids to be like a surfer and ride the ‘waves’ of their emotions.
Tips to help kids ride the waves by:
talking about how ‘it’s OK to feel all emotions’
giving them a safe space to feel without criticism or trying to fix how they feel
reminding them they can get through tough emotions
exploring various strategies that will help them work through their emotions when they are in a calm state
Helping kids ride the waves of emotions is not only important for their overall well-being, it will also help them through the challenges they will experience throughout their life.