Unpacking kids feelings

May 30, 2016 in Uncategorized by Hilary Akman

I had an encounter with my son today that highlighted a truism about how kids experience and express emotions.
We had wrapped up a rousing game of Uno in which he lost after several near misses at victory. This ended in tears and walking off towards his room. But as he walked off he looked back at me as if to say, “I need you, Are you coming?” Ah…1st attempt at seeking connection, I’m in!

So we talked and cuddled on his bed about how hard losing can be. And I suspected that this big upset was an outlet to unpack other feelings he had carried around throughout the day.

You see, we had spent the day at a drive thru Safari/waterpark. And just as he got in line for a waterslide that he was waiting all day for they closed down the waterpark due to lightning. So we had to head out of the park in order to beat the pending thunderstorm. Major Bummer!

So he began to unload about all the “no’s” he received throughout the day.

As I listened and empathized, I notice some annoyance brewing as I heard him recount all the mishaps of the day. A well thought out lecture on gratitude had crossed my mind. But now was not the time. Now was the time to allow him to be heard. Isn’t that what we all want? That annoyance was more about me and my judgments that I was projecting in the moment that could have gotten in the way of coaching my son through his overwhelming feelings

If we recounted the disappointments of our day to our spouse or friend and they told us to write in our gratitude journal we would probably put an end to that conversation walking away feeling unheard.

So whenever your child has an emotional reaction that seems to to be a mismatch to the situation, that is always your clue that there are other emotions that need to be unpacked that your child has been carrying around for days, weeks, or months. That seemingly erroneous event was just the trigger to release the pent up emotions they didn’t even know were there.

Our job is to coach them through the big feelings so that they can be released. When we do this repeatedly, they begin to recognize this on their own and can then do it for themselves. That is called emotional regulation. Don’t we all want all kids to learn that skill?

So it isn’t personal, we can still have values of gratitude, and we even keep gratitude journals, but there is a time a place for that once big emotions have been worked through. Make sense?
Can you look for the next opportunity to coach your child through big feelings? With kids, it won’t be long until they come up again!