Let’s start off with a look at a child’s emotions as well as a Swedish saying I love: "Our children will ask for love in the most unloving of ways."
When little people’s feelings get really big, sometimes they don’t know how to let us know, ask for help, or how to handle them alone. They can come out as big storms of emotion that seem to test our very moral fibers. (ex: "I know I love my child but man, right now, I don’t like him very much"). We can do a couple things with this child …
Now, some of you may have different ideas on styles of parenting and may disagree with my option - that’s ok. I would just like to add that my training comes from looking at a child’s neurobiology. If you would like to read about this wonderful way of looking at parenting, please check out the great author and researcher Dr. Dan Siegel.
On to our bigger topic. I have had adults come to me and say that sometimes they feel like that child with really big feelings "… but why? I’m an adult? I should be able to manage my own feelings and cope with them in a more positive and productive way!”
My first question is: “What do you do when you feel whatever emotional storm is brewing for you?” Many times I hear answers close to, “Well, I can’t just break down. I have work, kids, and a life.” So basically, you are telling the hurt/scared/frustrated/etc. child in you, “Hey look, I know you are giving me the big puppy eyes full of tears, but I just don’t have time to care for your hurt right now.” Would you say that to a child? Would you ask them to hold all of that in until it’s convenient for you? I hope not!
Our emotions happen when they happen. This is where someone inserts a great big “DUH” - but it’s true! We seem to think we have some control and we can just push it off until it’s convenient for us to “deal” with it. Let me ask you … is it ever convenient? Or is that just an easy way for us to not have to truly sit with our storms and attend to them?
When we are talking about a child’s emotional storm, here’s how I would address it. Sit beside them (not in front of them), have some kind of appropriate safe touch to remind them that someone cares about them, and let them talk through it, let them cry through it, let the storm rage on (Frozen song inserted here) as long as everyone is able to be safe and cared for. Let them see that it doesn’t have to be lonely, scary, or shameful to process your emotions. Be there with them.
Now I challenge you to do the same for yourself. Honor your emotional storm. Get somewhere comfortable where you will not be ashamed of letting out whatever needs to be released. Keep yourself safe. Remind yourself that you are loved and you don’t have to do this alone. Attend to the strong emotions that are asking for your love and attention. They are child-like because they want to be heard. They want to know that they too are important.
I always suggest that you have someone to companion you through your emotional storms. Have someone that will sit beside you and hold your hand or touch your arm in reassurance. Have someone that is not afraid to weather the storm with you. Ask them to be with you and not try to “fix” you. You don’t need fixing. You need to be true to what’s going on for you.
I know it’s not always possible to have someone with us during these times, so if that’s the case, I ask that you be that supportive person for yourself. Don’t judge yourself or criticize the time and energy it takes - just as you wouldn’t do that to a child. Do your best to fill your body with love and acceptance.
I will say, this is much easier said than done - as is parenting. We will never be perfect, but we can do our best every time. Every time we strive to fill ourselves with compassion and understanding, it becomes more of a (healthy) habit and will soon be something we look forward to recieving from ourselves. Practice makes progress (not perfect)!
Remember: These storms are here for a reason. They may not leave easily, but the more we attend to them with kindness and compassion, the less they want to remind us of their fury.