Wednesday, February 27, 2013

The ABC's of Feelings

kids_and_emotions
Happy Hippo, Angry Duck
My daughter's first primer of emotions. We've been reading Sandra Boynton's Happy Hippo, Angry Duck to her since she was an infant. Teaching her about feelings is as important to our family as learning the alphabet.

I never learned how to make friends with my feelings as a child. Squash them down like a bug was more like it. In my family, showing emotion is considered a sign of weakness.

I'd like for my toddler, Claire, to learn to hold hands with her feelings, as she makes her way on this winding road called life. Over the years, I've witnessed how emotions tend to come out sideways if you don't.  

When I'm my best self, I'm able to put into practice what the experts suggest about helping children nurture their emotional self, such as learning to acknowledge feelings and name emotions. At other times, I realize that I still need to grow my own emotional life...and I'm just a wee bit older than the tender age of a child...

kids_and_emotions

When Claire's angry and throwing one of her toddler fits (which involves a howl like a combination of a scream and crying). I try to breathe and soothe myself. But I feel my blood pressure rising. I feel like she's playing the violin on an attenuated nerve in my neck. I know she's got it in for me and only me, and I want to yell, "STOP! YOU'RE GIVING ME A CORONARY!"

Or when she's scared of the balloon; yes, I hold her and comfort her. Yet my own anxiety rises. "What? She's afraid of a balloon?" I think, as I project strange stories into thin air about my daughter's now entirely fraught future. "She's going to be afraid of everything! How's she going to manage in life, if she's scared of a balloon?!" I have to fight the urge to diminish her fear. I want so badly to say something like, "That's not scary. It's just a balloon!"

The worst is when she's sad. I want to sweep that icky feeling away like it's the bogeyman! I can't stand it when she's sad. When I see tears of hurt running down her face, I want to immediately make her feel better, bypass the big, bad emotion altogether. "Don't worry. Don't be sad. Let's make it better!," I find myself wanting to say -- discounting her feelings altogether instead of making space for her psychic reality.

Really, that's what I want to do with all of her emotions: make space for them. In my own life, I have found that when I invite my feelings along for the ride, they allow me to be the one in the driver's seat. I would like for my daughter to be the one driving too. 

Most of the time, I'm able to keep my thoughts in my head and let Claire be right where she needs to be. But it's far from easy. I find it hard enough just allowing me to be me, let alone Claire. 

Maybe, I need to start consulting the feelings book more often, as well.


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Photo Source: Pink Sherbet Photography, Fotopedia. This photo has been adapted and does not suggest that the licenser endorses me, its use or this blog.  License

76 comments:

  1. Rachel, I may need to start consulting that book too, because trust me I fight those urges just as much as it sounds you do. However, I was raised to express my feelings, but still have those moments and then you have my husband who was raised in a family when you show all your thoughts and feeling under the proverbial rug and ignore it as you would the big fat elephant in the room, too. Yup, we could so use that book around here!!

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    1. I like the word "urges". It's rings true.

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  2. Totally relate, as usual. I come from a family where one parent over-emotes and the other suppresses. I've managed to find a way to do both.

    This is an important post and not something we talk about all that often. Maybe I need to pick up that book!

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    1. My family vented anger, but not in a good way. The rest...not so much.

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  3. I have pointed to my eye and said to Boo that she is giving me an aneurysm RIGHT HERE. Can you imagine if we told our parents that we needed to make friends with our feelings?

    On a serious note, I feel your frustration. It is so difficult when they cannot tell us why they are upset, hurt or scared. I think we should definitely get an owners manual.

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    1. So true! I just have to breathe, and breathe, and breathe.

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  4. OMG ~ I really have no idea if we could be any more alike on this! It amazes me how someone who was brought up to show no emotion and bury now has an innate desire to make sure that her child grows up nothing like that.
    What's that tell you? LOL!
    it's hard and difficult at times to really breathe and relax and let those emotions out of ourselves because we've almost been conditioned not to ... but we still have to allow our daughters the ability to show them.

    Yikes ... my brain hurts!

    ¤´¨)
    ¸.•*´
    (¸¤ Lanaya | xoxo
    www.raising-reagan.com

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    1. Thank you for linking to Raising Imperfection.
      Please come back Friday to see if you were featured. :)

      ¤´¨)
      ¸.•*´
      (¸¤ Lanaya | xoxo
      www.raising-reagan.com

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    2. I think that's what makes it so hard. That we are trying to do something that's completely alien! I'm cheering you on, Mama!

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  5. Brilliant mommy! You're so right. I think way too often that we try and smush (real word according to me) our kids' emotions because it sucks to see them sad, especially. I've been working on this one but not doing a good job of it and, because of that, end up with way too many plastic toys made in China.

    You are such an amazing mom! Seriously! Can you come visit???? For real. Love this. Well...love all of your posts...

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    1. Aw! Would love to visit! For real! Likewise! You coming to NYC for any business trips soon??

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  6. Motherhood is so much fun!! Feelings get so much easier when they can talk more and tell you whats going on. Trust me on that one!! Dr Seuss has a great book onfeelings using colours which helped my eldest out a llittle bit.

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    1. Oh, I LOVE that idea! Colors and feelings! That's great. Will have to check it out...

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  7. With a 7-year-old gun toting child we're here "mommy, you're the best mommy in the whole world!" me "Ok, well, can you remember that tomorrow when you say you hate me?" "Of course mommy, I'll never say that again." Fast Forward "I hate you! You're the meanest mommy ever!" "What happened to I'm the best mommy in the whole world?" "I lied!"
    And so....channeling you and every other emotionally stable grown-up I say. "OK sweetie, well I love you no matter what, and when you're ready to talk, I'll be right here" Then my head explodes.

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    1. I haven't gotten to that stage yet. Coming attractions!

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  8. What an incredibly introspective piece. I loved it. We won't always do it right, but if you're making the space and time to think about how you're handling it, you are very obviously on the right track, Mama! Your daughter is lucky to have you!

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    1. Aw, thanks, Jen! That made my day. You have a way with doing that!

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  9. Oh the things we would say to our kids if we could! :)
    Just wanted to pop over and thank you for linking up with us ladies at the Thursday blog hop! Hope you are finding some fabulous new reads!
    Thanks again!
    Katie~
    http://dysfunctionsjunction.com

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  10. I used to play an exaggerated game with my little kids of what do look like when you are sad? mad? angry? hungry? we had fun playing and acting!

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    1. Annmarie, everything you say here makes me admire you as a mom! Really!

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  11. This is a great post. I definitely feel like I did not learn how to deal well with my emotions as I grew up, either--I really want to be able to help my children acknowledge, validate, and give space to how they feel, and not just "deal with it." I think we will have to check out this book :)

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    1. It's a great book. Unfortunately, it's merely the beginning....

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  12. This is a fantastic post, you're are doing a wonderful job! xx

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  13. I think i need one of those books!!

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  14. You're doing awesome! And I know what you mean about sadness. Oh how it hurts to see our children sad and blue.

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    1. Yeah, it's the worst one. I can't even imagine dealing with her first heartbreak! Ugh!

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  15. New follower from Harvest of Friends Weekend Blog Hop. I am an "older mom" myself, my kids having been born when I was 35, 36 and 41 respectively. I would have liked one more, but it probably would not be good for either my health or the child's. My father's side of the family was not big on the expression of emotion either.

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    1. Well...I had mine at 44! I would have loved another one, but we feel very, very blessed to have one.

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  16. Motherhood was never meant to be easy and I think all of your feelings are normal. You are right though allow her to be where she needs to be and you breath deeply to avoid that coronary!

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    1. I'm trying. It doesn't always work, but my percentage is much better than a baseball player!

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  17. I'm 35 and my mom still wants to take away any and all bad feelings I have. Good for you for trying to let her be, while knowing you're right there.

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  18. I loved your post, I could totally relate to your post, I often find it difficult to watch my boys experiences there feelings especially the yucky feelings. Yet I understand how important it is to get comfortable and work through all our feelings. That book of moods looks very good.

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    1. It's SO hard to let go! It makes me realize how controlling I am!! And how much I want to sugar coat my daughter's world.

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  19. New like on Google + from Teresa at NanaHood.com
    And this is a great post....not just saying that. It is.

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  20. Thanks for linking up with us for the "Let's Be Friends" GFC Hop!! ♥ your newest follower!

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  21. What a lovely honest post. I can so relate. I'm having fun with my little girl at the moment and I too hate to see her sad. However I think its so important that they learn to recognise these feelings so that are better able to deal with them when they are older. Easier said than done though for us mums (visiting from Flash Blog Friday) xx

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    1. Yes, I'm trying. I'm not always successful, but hopefully she will forgive me my slip-ups!

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  22. I love your post, I have a little one born in 2011 and I think I might just look into getting that book since its been several years since my oldest(13) was a wee little one...

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  23. Happy weekend wishes to you and Thank you for sharing at the Thursday Favorite Things blog hop, your participation is what makes it so much fun. Come back to Katherines Corner,I posted the new giveaway today! xo

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  24. It is hard to see your child sad or disappointed...
    Thanks for stopping by and linking up with my NO RULES Weekend Blog Party :)

    Have a lovely weekend!

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    1. I want her world to be without disappointment, hurt and heartache! Impossible!

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  25. I want to thank you for joining the TAKE AWAY BLOG HOP! As a special prize I am offering everyone who joins this link-up FREE ad space. YES FREE AD SPACE. please email me for the details. YES IT IS FREE. mariexdxd@gmail.com

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  26. I think every parent gets frustrated at times and wonders why they can't understand as we do. Then, it's a matter of taking two steps back and saying, "Would I have done so at that age?" Fortunately, we have a way to assist them with the knowledge we have, and mostly the patience we've grown to understand. Great post!

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    1. Yes, patience and understanding are the key. Really, nothing more than that!

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  27. Our children's pain is unbearable to us, parents. I find myself there every day, with every little stumble my daughter takes (about a zillion a day) And it hurts even more when the pain is in their little hearts. We feel useless :(

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    1. Useless. That's a great word for it. I can totally relate.

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  28. I'm your newest follower.
    I feel the same way you do. As parents we deal with a lot and our feelings are justified. Hang in there.

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    1. Yes, it's true. I just want to learn not to take my feelings out on my girl.

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  29. You've made quite a switch from the way you grew up. That in itself is a tough challenge.

    http://joycelansky.blogspot.com

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    1. That's a lovely thing to say, Joyce. I really feel validated by your comment. Thank you.

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  30. This post is a great reminder to myself that I want Violet to be raised with an healthy emotional self. Thank you!

    Thank you for linking up to Raising Imperfection!
    Make sure to check back on Friday to see if you were featured.
    Leslie

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    1. Yes, it would be great if it just came naturally. But I find that it's something that I need to think about and make happen.

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  31. I'm much the same as you, on the good days I am great at saying "you seem very frustrated" as he lies on the floor of the supermarket kicking and screaming. But on the bad days I just want to yell back and kick and scream too. Its a work in progress. One thing that I have found helps is to acknowledge and name my feelings too. So if Goblin is making me really angry I tell him "I can see you are angry but your screaming is hurting my head and that makes me angry" - That doesn't mean I'm not allowing him to have those feelings, but it would be nice if he had them a bit quieter.
    I'm pinning your post to the Sunday Parenting Party Pinterest board, thanks for sharing

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    1. ha, ha! My daughter has always been loud, since day one! I totally relate. I think it's good for kids to know that you are affected by them too. It's good advice! Thanks for the pin, always makes me happy. Especially b/c I respect you as a blogger.

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    2. aw thanks thats a lovely thing to say

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  32. Mine is a very emotional family. We probably express our feelings too well. I learned somethings special from you today, it never occurred to me that I should leave people to be sad and deal the feeling on their own, I am always trying to cheer whoever it is, immediately.

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  33. Lovely, honest post. I had one parent on each side of the coin and tend to ping-pong between the two extremes myself. With my kids, I make every effort to allow them their feelings and show my own. When mine happen to be over the top, I'm (hopefully) quick to explain that it is about me, not them, and that we each have to learn to take a moment to choose our responses, but that whatever we feel is ok, simply because it is what we feel. Yet, I have yelled with borderline coronaries and I've even spoken those, "It's just a balloon!" words. We're not perfect, we never will be, but I think you demonstrate your capacity as an excellent mom with your awareness of where you stand emotionally.

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  34. I think this is important too. It is important for kids to be able to express themselves.

    Kathy
    http://gigglingtruckerswife.blogspot.com

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  35. I know the coronary feeling well. It is very important for them to know their feelings so they can realise it in others too. Fridge magnets with the different emotions on them(homemade) are a good way for kids to let you know how they are feeling.

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  36. For me, the hardest part about emotions was when my kids were really young and they were hurt by something another kid did to them at school--if they had been teased or shunned--it was REALLY HARD for me to not want to shake that other kid by the shoulders and say, "STOP BEING SO MEAN TO MY BABY!" or something along those lines. When they hurt, we hurt. But as they grow older, we can't fight their battles for them, and that is the hardest thing of all--standing by helpless when someone else causes your child's unhappiness. You just have to be there to assure them that what they are feeling is OK and be there to support them when they need you. One day at a time, Mama! XOXO

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  37. You are such a strong mama even if at times you might not feel like it. Beautifully written with such honesty. Love how you write and share. Thanks for linkin up with me!

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  38. I definitely need one of those books and I love Sandra Boynton.

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  39. I am going to have to find that book. My son loves Sandra Boynton and I love the idea of making sure he is an expert at naming his feelings. I have the same struggles as you, squish those icky feelings down and pretend they don't exist was the mainstay in my house growing up. I am very conscious of not passing that tradition onto my little one.

    Thank you so much for sharing this today at the Oh HAPPY Day link party!

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  40. This is so true - it really can be so hard to just let them ride it out and not squash or rescue them from feelings. My husband is so great with our daughter and does deep breathing with her.

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  41. We started using sign language at an early age to get our oldest to better express her feelings. Her favorite one to use is scared, lol. She'll even use it when her mom & dad are fighting, which usually triggers me to say, 'we better stop for now.' Love Sandra Boynton so I'll go looking.

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  42. I've found that I get over things so much easier when I allow myself to really feel them rather than try to pretend that I'm okay when I'm not.

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  43. Thanks so much for sharing at the Baby Shower - look forward to seeing you at this week's party Alice x

    http://mumsmakelists.blogspot.co.uk/2013/03/the-friday-baby-shower-4.html

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  44. Just wanted to add to everyone saying this is a great post -
    I'm trying to teach myself to use phrases like "You're sad, I hear you" and "I'm listening" instead of "Don't worry" and "It's okay" for the exact reasons you mention. It isn't easy! But I find that every time I tell her "it's okay to be sad" then the feeling, the realisation that that's true for me as well, starts to sink in a little deeper.

    On another note, I'm afraid of balloons and always have been! But I promise you that otherwise I'm a confident and competent person :) Things that are scary don't have to make sense or be actually dangerous. I simply hate the noise of them popping so it makes me anxious to be around them because they might pop any time. I can't relax if there's a balloon around. But I reckon we're all allowed some little quirks like that!

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  45. Oh we have that book and love it... nothing like being able to smile and giggle about all kinds of different emotions to realise that it is ok to have them.

    And in a perfect world we'd react better to our kids big or difficult feelings, as well as to our own. But sadly our world is not perfect and some days all you can do is try to do better next time.

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