Giving Our Children a Better Emotional Example than We Had

Dr. Purushothaman
January 13, 2014


No matter how old or young someone is, where they have come from on this planet or Sometimes life makes me feel crazy, and at those times I have to remind myself that everyone feels this way. It is too easy to get sucked into the emotion of that one moment, forgetting that it will pass and new emotions will come. This absent-mindedness may be what drives the industry of ant-depressants and other psychotropic medications, but the reality is that emotions are unstable. That is just part of being human. So how do we learn to accept the natural ebb and flow without growing alarmist in response to feelings we don't like? Is there a safe way to experience emotions that feel unsafe? How do we foster a healthier relationship with emotions in our children? The task seems so daunting.
If our parents had been able to teach us healthier ways to deal with emotions our society wouldn't be in such shambles. Growing up in a household where expression of emotions was unacceptable created a schism inside me, making all emotions be expressed as the one emotion mom didn't try to intervene against: anger. If there was no anger there was numbness, but as I entered my adult life I was able to admit that other emotions do exist. Learning to access these feelings has been an intense roller-coaster ride. When sadness was first experienced it felt like I was being drowned, as if I'd never be able to climb out from under the heavy blanket. Normal sadness felt like an endless depression. It takes constant reminders to this day in order not to assume the worst. It is easy to grow alarmist when you are emotionally self-taught, but you can also teach yourself to ride the wave. Emotions always come full-circle.
When we were toddlers and young children, we were supposed to learn to label the emotions that we experienced as well as tools for managing those feelings. When we are forced to teach ourselves these things as adults the process is very intense and incredibly drawn-out. By the time we reach adulthood we are set in our ways and have more difficulty coping with new experiences, making every emotion feel overwhelming and in one way or another unsafe. I have found the trick to be sharing the experience with a safe person. Humans are social creatures, and we are meant to support one another through difficulties. Talking about the sensation, or even journaling, allows an outlet for expression that takes some of the danger and fear out of even the most rage-full anger. Think of a pressure-cooker. If you don't have a valve to allow some of the steam out there is a risk of explosion. Finding a way to express emotions, especially the tough ones, before they build up creates safety within the crazy feelings.
We never wish to pass these curses on to our children, so we need to find a way to prevent the same emotional chaos that we experience from repeating itself in our children's lives. Learning to handle our emotions will go a long way at improving our children's emotional standing, but it often doesn't feel like enough. Talking about these things with our children seems to be the key to allowing them the peace we crave. If we can assist a child in labeling his emotions they become more manageable and less overwhelming for him. If we are able to help provide healthy outlets for expressing these emotions we are helping even more. The most important thing I have learned is that I can't blame myself for the difficulty I have experiencing emotions. Accepting my difficulties helps my children learn to accept their emotions with more ease.
As with every aspect of life, acceptance is the key. As we are learning to accept emotions and feel even the most painful of them, we need to let go of guilt. This is not something we are doing to our children; it is something we do for them. Choosing to make progress is an example we should be proud to set, and will allow us to be better parents. So feel those scary emotions, remind yourself that they will pass, and give yourself a pat on the back for breaking the cycle of emotional blankness in your family. As hard as it is, it is definitely worth it.

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