Working with Your Children’s Emotions
A child’s imagination is limitless. Their emotions are no different. However, unlike their adult counterparts, children have not had the experience of learning effective ways to deal with the rising tides an emotional state can cause. How then, can we as parents, work with our children to teach them effective ways to handle emotionally distressing states when they arise?
In order to answer this, lets first define emotion, so that we may have a guiding post with which to work with our children. Webster’s Dictionary defines emotion as:
- the affective aspect of consciousness,
- a state of feeling,
- a conscious mental reaction (as anger or fear) subjectively experienced as strong feeling usually directed toward a specific object and typically accompanied by physiological and behavioral changes in the body (Emotion).
While this offers a basic definition for a very complex subject matter, emotions are this, and much, much more. As an affective aspect of consciousness, emotions influence our reaction to everyday experiences. Because they affect us at the experiential level, they can also have profound influence on the unfolding of future events. They construct our daily experience by fostering further experiences that support and amplify the emotional state we find ourselves within.
“When you’re feeling joyful, you are giving joy, and you’ll receive back joyful experiences, joyful situations, and joyful people, wherever you go. From the smallest experience of your favorite song playing on the radio to bigger experiences of receiving a pay raise — all of the circumstances you experiences are the law of attraction responding to your feeling of joy” (Byrne, n.d.)
Whether we are moved by euphoria, love, the search for happiness, periods of sadness, fits of anger / rage, or even fears of the unknown, emotions drive the future by affecting the way we handle emotionally laden events in the present. While it is a very common trait to blame life circumstances on fate, emotions ultimately act as an unconscious driving force behind present day decisions, which in turn affect future outcomes. The unconscious nature of emotions only reach consciousness after they are rationalized in order to justify the decision that was made. We act through emotions, then search for ways to rationalize those behaviors with conscious thought processes that rationalize the consequences incurred.
As a general state of feeling, emotions drive our moods, which ultimately affects the day to day interactions we have. Ever hear the terms, “I’m feeling blue.” How about, “He’s so mad, he’s seeing red.” Feelings affect the ways we perceive our daily experience, which in turn affects the outcomes of that daily experience. This underlies the adage “Murphy’s Law” a common belief that prescribes to the idea that when one thing goes wrong, all will go wrong.
Finally, emotions rise and fall like the tides. They exert extreme pressures upon our consciousness, and are directed towards a means that will produce physiological, psychological, and spiritual change. This allows a person to find equilibrium and balance, and is the point, where we can ultimately work with children to help them learn effective ways to handle the situational distress problematic emotions can foster.
Childhood can be a happy time. However, it is dependent on a number of factors that are ultimately out of the child’s control. Children are born primarily a blank slate; but they are equipped with instincts to learn, survive, and grow into the person they will ultimately become. They have a specialized perspective about the world that we as adults have long since forgotten. They do not know how the world works, and because of this, it is their job to make sense of the world they will inhabit. They are afforded numerous opportunities to assume the directors reigns over the life they will one day create. As Carl Jung stated,
The mind has grown to its present state of consciousness as an acorn grows into an oak, or as saurians developed into mammals (Jung, n.d.),
or as Allan Watts had implied,
It takes time for an acorn to turn into an oak, but the oak is already implied in the acorn (Watts, n.d.).
Our children’s capacity for emotional intelligence is built within them, a-priori to their physical birth. Like the blueprint of the oak that lies within the acorn, awaiting the guiding light of the sun to brush upon its waiting leaves to spur it to strive on forward to the sun, our children’s emotional intelligence awaits the guiding light of a parent’s lessons. It is through the interaction of nature and nurture, that a parent’s guiding light can intervene at key intervals during a child’s development, so that we may help them learn effective ways to handle emotional and situational distress in constructive, not destructive manner.
As parents, we need to be attuned to our children’s emotional state. Because children oftentimes do not know how they feel, it is up to us to help them define their emotions. This is somewhat of a dance, if you will, a guessing game in which we need to attend to their emotional states as they arise from real life experiences. Because each person can react differently to an event, it is up to us to filter our children’s emotions through empathic understanding of our own emotional state, as it would arise when faced with the same or similar situation. Even though the stress may seem trivial from an adults eyes, remember, we must filter it as a child would, for they have much less experience dealing with emotions and daily stressors than we do as adults. If we place ourselves in their shoes, and attempt to understand what they may or may not be feeling through empathic reasoning, we find ways to bridge the division between our understanding of and their personal experience with what happened. In turn, this teaches effective ways to identify and work with the emotions they feel are present.
Remember in this instance the rule of KISS. In children’s terms, a little KISS (Keep It Simple & Silly) can go a long way. Simple terms and silliness teaches them effective ways to handle emotional distress as it arises. Have them point to an emoticon if you will. The little emoticons on phones can be a very effective way to teach your children about emotions through visual cues . The rules of this game are simple, KISS, and communicate. Your children love contact, love to be heard, and yearn to know more about their growing self. They yearn to communicate with you, know your stories, and bridge the gap between their experience and stories you share. The more that they can traverse the chasm between personal and collective experiences, the more your child will be able to effectively communicate their feelings about their day to day experiences in a constructive, not destruct manner. This is an imperative mark of healthy development that helps the child to learn adaptive ways to handle situational distress by understanding, developing, and employing effective coping skills to handle both positive and negative emotional responses.
Remember, a child’s imagination and emotions are limitless. They feel, they yearn, they dream, and they think, and they experiment with a countless array of methods to mold the world in which they live to the inner kingdom of their imagination. While most adults have long lost forgotten about the magical world of childhood, this special time is the only reality your child knows. It is not our job to take that special mode of reasoning from them. However, it is our job to provide them with tools that will better enable them to adapt within the world they have inherited. We should not seek to conform them to our standards. That will happen through nature, even despite our need to nurture it forward. Instead, we should expose them appropriately to ways needed to understand their emotional state, and work with them to constructively navigate the torrential paths childhood development will take them upon.
Learning about emotions and they way they influence positive and negative behaviors, positive and negative outcomes is one such lesson. If taught and employed correctly, emotional intelligence, and understanding the effects these deep seated springs of energy can have on the outcome of life can free your child to do that which they were naturally created to do, Dream, Experiment, Redirect, Learn, Achieve, and Succeed with the Dreams they seek to see become a reality.
Emotion. (n.d.). Retrieved March 11, 2017, from https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/emotionhttps://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/emotion
Carl Jung. (n.d.). AZQuotes.com. Retrieved March 16, 2017, from AZQuotes.com Web site: http://www.azquotes.com/quote/857171
‘The Power’ (‘The Secret’ Sequel): 24 Inspirational Quotes from Rhonda Byrne’s New Book.(n.d.). Retrieved March 16, 2017, from http://www.mindbodygreen.com/0-1446/The-Power-The-Secret-Sequel-24-Inspirational-Quotes-from-Rhonda-Byrnes-New-Book.html
Alan Watts. (n.d.). AZQuotes.com. Retrieved March 16, 2017, from AZQuotes.com Web site: http://www.azquotes.com/quote/878594