What To Do When You Feel Some Hard Emotions? Welcome Them.
It all started innocent enough. We were painting a tree branch for a process art book club I was hosting that week, and I was feeling so warm and glowy watching them paint together with their dedicated expressions on their faces. I imagined hanging the tree branch in their room as a symbol of their sibling love. Oh, it would be wonderful, I thought.
I stepped into the closet for 12 seconds to search for a bottle of glue. Or what is modpodge? It doesn't really matter now. I came out to find 2 year old Brother swirling his fingers in red paint he'd poured over our rental carpet in four heaping glops. I stood there, stunned and horrified while he dipped his fingers in again and squealed with delight. Eeeks!
Do you have an eeeks moment or 3 under your belt, awesome mama? We can ALL relate.
How to Feel Our Emotions As Mothers
Nothing makes us feel fully human like our children do.
It’s such a wild ride, isn’t it? One minute we’re floating on a cloud of joy, and the next we’re scrubbing carpets and our own tears. Or is it just me - ha. ;)
When I'm in the outside world, I rein in my full humanness much more than I'd like to admit. I sometimes laugh politely at bad jokes, and I also stifle a loud laugh at a hilarious one. I calmly stand in long lines with one child who is whining in the cart and another who I suspect just licked a mirror, and all I want to do is urge toward the front, "hurry up!" I sometimes hold back on telling my Mom how much she means to me when she visits.
Do you ever find yourself reining in your gorgeous humanness?
You really can let it all just be, while allowing yourself be open to feeling better too.
It’s so important for us to get cozy with our normal human emotions. Feelings - even the hard ones, are our guidance system. Shedding tears when we need to lets out tension that builds within us. Admitting, “I’m angry” can feel huge to acknowledging our truth. Also, noticing when we’re distracting or numbing our feelings, and journaling can pave the way to better understanding ourselves, and more emotional health.
Get still. Even if it’s just a breath, and accept ourselves for exactly who we are.
Because be real: you’re Wonder Woman!
How To Allow Children To Feel Their Emotions
Children don’t stop their humanness like adults do, unless we well-meaningly stop them.
They laugh loud at the punchline in hilarious books, and burst into tears at the dentist. They will declare exactly what they are thinking, which might be the truest statement you heard all day, at the most inappropriate time. They'll scream with rage at their brother, "don't you touch my blocks ever again!" and a few minutes later, burst into a fit of giggles over a fart. They'll snuggle up close to you and look you in the eyes with their big brown eyes, without wanting to look away.
I’m always awestruck how peaceful children become after a tantrum or long cry. Have you noticed this too? They know how to heal themselves so well when we let them . This may mean letting go of “you’re okay” while our children cry, and perhaps letting go of the timeouts too. It may also mean using discipline in a way that sets limits with empathy.
Luckily, now there is research that indicates how feeling emotions is paramount to mental health. That we should set limits and support our children while they express a range of feelings, and gently stop any negative behaviors like hitting.
This might looks like, “I hear you, you’re upset because I’m not letting you have another cookie.” and staying close by until our children are done sharing their feelings.
I’ll admit, I’m so not perfect at this. And I don’t think we have to be. But I do think we should try to do the best we can as often as we can (and not guilt ourselves when we lose our cool now and then).
Research about the importance of emotions
Perhaps you and I are alike? As someone who thought crying was for wusses, and any negative feelings could suck it, I was reluctant to embrace this all at first. Or maybe, you think that if we allow tears, anger - even rage - all of us will be lose our ish over spilled milk and become (gasp!) unfit for society? I thought all of these things.
But it’s simply not true.
Iris Mauss, an associate professor of psychology at UC Berkeley discovered: “We found that people who habitually accept their negative emotions experience fewer negative emotions, which adds up to better psychological health,” Mauss said. “Maybe if you have an accepting attitude toward negative emotions, you're not giving them as much attention.”
So counterintuitive, right? But it’s true, yo!
I’m now I'm seeing that the more we let our full humanness be something that is seen as normal, the more happy, resilient, and emotionally healthy we all become.
Do you want to try this whole feeling our feelings thing together, you and me? I’d love to hang out and just be ourselves together.
With love and a whole lotta respect,