Dr. Laura Markham, clinical psychologist at Columbia University, says, “You’re either setting the habit of stuffing feelings, or setting the habit of feeling feelings” as you raise your children. Use these five ideas to ensure yourself that you will raise your kids to feel their feelings. Stifling their emotions could lead to negative energy in their life later on, so it is incredibly important that you teach them to feel their emotions using these strategies as they grow up.
1) “Don’t yell.”
We all lose our temper from time to time, but when you’re raising your kids it is vital to their growth that you never yell. When you yell, they get scared. Whatever it was they were doing feels wrong and even if it is wrong – their inherent reaction will likely be to shut down or cry. When you’re teaching your kids to avoid stifling their emotions, this will become a huge barrier. “When was the last time you lost it on someone, and they said to you, ‘I see where you’re coming from, (could) you explain it to me louder and angrier?’” Patiently discuss issues with your children but please, by all means, avoid yelling. It never got anyone anywhere.
2) “Don’t distract.”
Feeling your emotions is important. Despite it being painful, you don’t want to teach your kids to walk away from their emotions and you need to let them feel what it feels like to be in pain or mourning. “Instead of teaching that there’s no disappointment in life that can’t be solved with a trip to Ben & Jerry’s, maybe just let them feel disappointment.” Let them be upset because they need to learn to deal with those emotions now, or they will have to learn to deal with them later in life when they have a job and a mortgage and a relationship that are all demanding.
3) “Let them cry.”
“No parent wants to see their kid cry, but if you don’t let them express sadness or frustration when they’re feeling it, they won’t learn to handle these emotions in the long run.” This one is simple. Feeling your emotions helps you get through them, and when your child cries, you need to let them know it is okay to cry. If you teach your kid to shut down or that crying is bad or shows weakness, they will be incredibly unstable moving forward. When they feel strong emotions that trigger things like crying, they will attempt to shut down when they really need to just feel the pain, and that will all build up eventually and – like a dam – break open in one, massive outburst.
4) “Use laughter.”
Laughing will raise the mood in any room instantly. Let your kids laugh. Teach your kids to laugh. Use humor and let it flow freely throughout your home. It isn’t just sadness that you need to allow your kids to feel, but happiness as well. “It diminishes the number of stress hormones in your body and increases good neurotransmitters like oxytocin,” says Markham. Laughter will help to bring joy to any household and any life, and so encouraging it is an incredible way to free your kids to feel their emotions.