“Being safe is about being seen and heard and allowed to be who you are and to speak your truth” Rachel Naomi Remen
Children often experience and express such big emotion. Their body does exactly what it needs to, in order to release that energy and allow it to move through their body. They may scream, cry, hit, kick, stomp up and down and yell to allow that emotion to flow through as desired. Then, you may have noticed they run off again just like nothing ever happened, moving onto the next thing in their play. Even though big emotion may be difficult to be around, ensuring we offer a safe place where children feel that they are seen and heard and able to speak their truth, can really ground a child in validation and a deep sense of safety and belonging. So, how can we hold that space for our children to express their emotion freely and allow that energy to move through the body?
Perhaps we could start with our own relationship with emotion by asking ourselves these few questions:
What relationship do I have with emotion?
What do I expect of others when they have emotions?
Do I feel free to express my emotions?
Be curious about these questions and if there is anything in particular you have a strong reaction to, perhaps delve a little deeper. You may like to contact a professional in the mind-body field, to help facilitate this journey so that a space can be “held” for you to explore this part of yourself.
Once we are aware of our relationship with emotion, we can then engage with our child with awareness. Here are a few things that helped me with coaching my children:
- The emotion is real, no matter how trivial the cause/reason may seem. We can then honour their truth by being alongside them and allowing them to express freely, at the same time keeping others and yourself safe by giving them space, keeping them safe by being close by for little ones, and clearing the space of dangerous objects.
- There is no time limit on emotion being released.
- Hold a calm, loving and non-judgmental presence. It may help to think of them as a little baby, upset. If we want to hold a boundary here, we can gently and calmly say something like “I see and hear you are really angry/frustrated, etc… right now. I will be in……. (insert where you will be), come and get me when you are feeling calmer.” If setting a boundary in this area is new for your family, ensure you discuss the new way you will be dealing with this from now on and why, so it doesn’t fuel their emotion at the time.
- Once the energy or emotion has shifted, that can be the cue for us to engage with them. They may need a hug, a shoulder, a chat, etc… perhaps check with them if they don’t initiate the next step and honour what they sense they need.
- If it is an appropriate time i.e., you are feeling calm and they are feeling receptive, then perhaps ask some questions, “you seem(ed) really angry/sad/frustrated/overwhelmed/envious/jealous/uncomfortable, etc” “I wonder what was happening for you?” With little ones you may need to intuit why – e.g., “are you feeling frustrated that you aren’t keeping up with your sister?”
- Empathise and Normalise – g., “I hear you. I would feel the same as you do if I experienced that”
- Frame and move forward – e.g., For younger children – perhaps offer a story of a time when you had a similar experience and then overcame it – how did you do that? Perhaps encourage them to come up with solutions or query their sense of what they are trying to control e.g., “are you feeling like you will never be able to be as fast as your sister?” “what are your options?” “what is it about not keeping up with your sister that you feel is a bad thing?” “what story are you telling yourself about what just happened?” Be age appropriate – if this is new to your little one, they many need help in coming up with options for the first few times, but always ask them first, as they may have an idea.
Emotions are an opportunity for us to know our children on a deeper level – what triggers them and what stories they may be telling themselves about situations they experience. These moments can be an opportunity for modelling boundaries and can provide an chance to show them that you are there for them, that you can handle the big stuff alongside them, so that they will come to you no matter what problem they are facing. Emotions can also give you an opportunity to see areas you may want to explore and give opportunities for your own healing.
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As published in The Inspired Guide Issue#17