Let's talk about our feelings...
I am happy. I am awesome. I am also mad and angry!! Every human, big and small, shares in experiencing the rainbow of emotions, yet we tend to only stick to the yellow sunshine feelings and not the blue sadness of feelings. We need to give our children the gift of feeling all of it and going through it. Our mental health and wellbeing depend on the full spectrum of colors, not just a select few. However, I often find myself lacking the tools to do this because I was raised to put a smile on my face, buck up, don’t be a baby... crying is weakness.
Let’s be honest, most of us didn’t grow up talking about therapy or mental health as a positive.
We are learning as we are teaching our children, and we're all doing our best! Here is what I have learned along the way...
- Space: When my daughter is feeling big feelings I give her space to feel them and not rush her through the emotions. I allow her time to move at the speed she needs through it. I know when I am mad, I need time to process and cool off. So do our littles.
- Grace: "I bet that hurt your feelings." "I understand you are mad." We all want to be heard and given the grace to be in the feeling. No right, no wrong, and no judgment on how someone feels. Those are their feelings and they are real to them, even if as a little one they seem to be overreacting in our eyes. Let them feel how they feel.
- Offer: When my daughter is feeling blue, I offer to sit with her, share a hug if she would like one, and listen to what upset her. I let her tell me what she needs at that moment. More times than not, she tells me, "I need a minute by myself." It’s hard to walk away, but that is what she knows she needs for her body. She collects herself, talks herself through it (I can hear her talking to herself), and then, she comes downstairs and talks and explains to me her side.
- Share: I can’t know what’s happening in her body, but I can share examples of times when I was feeling sad or my feelings were hurt and what I did to get through it. I have felt left out or not included. I have had to cancel plans on something I really want to do. I have been angry when I did not get my way. I find that sharing with her my moment of the “blues” helps her calm down, connect with me and open up to share her feelings and what happened to upset her.
- Therapy: I don't have all the tools, and asking for help is a good thing. If our sink is clogged, I call for a plumber's help. If my car won’t start, I can call a mechanic for help. If I have big feelings, I can ask a friend, school counselor or therapist for help. Recently, when I didn’t have the tools I needed to help my daughter with separation anxiety, we went to a family therapist together. We learned what to do in those moments of worry and learned the tools of breathing buddies, the power of the breath (deep inhale and exhale), and words of encouragement, including that we all feel nervous sometimes, and it's ok.
We ALL have mental health, and we ALL experience happy days and bad days. If we don’t go through the feeling, we are setting ALL of us up for failure. Let’s celebrate the bad days as much as we embrace the happy ones. It’s all a part of who we are and what makes us amazing, emotional creatures that embrace, love, cry and feel the entire rainbow.