Every parent will tell you that their children’s big emotions are among the hardest parts of parenting, but this is only so as long as we follow the prevailing beliefs.
Ten years ago, when I was still buried deep in the high tech bubble, life was passing me by. I was happy (what does this word even mean?), I was content, I was busy, I was doing, I was thriving by all “their” parameters. But something was missing, and I never knew what it was until I gave birth to Ilay.
The One Major Change of Becoming a Parent
I was a marketing manager, I was (and still am) a wife, a daughter, a friend, a sister. And the language we all spoke was a language of judgment, interpretation, fear, guilt, and shame. Whenever we wanted to ask for something, we first blamed the other person for not doing it yet. Whenever we wanted to share our feelings, we first mentioned how others are to blame for our reactions. There was always someone to blame, and it was never anyone of us. And everyone was doing the same.
If we were brave enough to zoom out, we would see how fear, guilt, and shame are the leading communication strategies on this planet until a baby comes into the picture. And BOOM.
What’s the REAL Difference Between Children and Adults?
Communicating with a baby, or even a toddler, is super hard on all of us in the very beginning. And later on, it can either get easier or so much more complicated. Let me explain 🙂
Babies and toddlers are attuned to their needs and feelings in ways us, adults, have long forgotten. There’s no manipulation in their communication, no fear, no guilt, no blame, and no shame. They need something – they ask for it. They want something – they cry for it. Not to annoy you, not to manipulate you, not to play you, but to communicate their needs to you.
Why Don’t We Understand Our Children?
Children’s communication is simple, it is binary, and this is why we just don’t get it; because for so many years, we have been taught to systematically distance our communication from the basic needs and feelings that rule our lives, whether we want them to, or not.
If we dare to learn our children’s language, learn how to speak our needs and feelings, and respond to their needs and feelings, we will lead a simple, yet meaningful and beneficial family life. If we insist on teaching them the language of rewards and punishments, manipulation, fear, guilt, and shame – soon enough we will find ourselves negotiating with young people who will be better at it than we are. It is then that communication ceases from even standing a chance and life becomes a zero-sum game.
Dare to Learn
Our children can teach us much more than we will ever be able to teach them because they are born, knowing what we have long gone forgotten.
Children are born trusting and honest; children are born believing there is someone out there who will greet their pain with empathy and understanding. When was the last time you’ve shared your pains with a loved one, truly believing there’s hope for change?
Us, adults, we no longer do it. We choose to suffer; we choose to keep our pain to ourselves because sharing it makes us seem weak, and moreover – we rarely believe sharing will better our situation. Or sometimes, we are just too lazy. We are so familiar with the situation we are in, we know the rules, we know how to navigate life the way it currently is, and we’re just unable to bring ourselves to change and better our being.
And now, let me be super clear – if babies behaved following these strategies – humankind would cease to exist.
So do we teach, or do we learn?
10 Mindful Practices To Help You Handle Your Child’s Big Emotions
If you’re a new mother, a seasoned mother, or a mother to be, the following ten mindful practices will help you handle your child’s big emotions for what they truly are – a brave communication of needs and feelings. Seeing it as such, living it as such would allow you to accept without judgment or interpretation and to build a secure connection with your child; a bond that will last a lifetime.
#1 Rely on Your Five Senses
What you can see, hear, touch, taste, and smell are the only accurate representations of what is happening. Everything else is a judgment, an interpretation. As an example: don’t tell yourself, “she’s manipulating me,” instead say, “I can see and hear my daughter crying.” Doing this, you respond to what is happening, instead of to your judgment of it.
#2 Don’t Try To Make it Stop
No matter what it is – it is already happening. As long as we will be actively trying to change something that is already, and actively happening – we will be fighting our realities. And in these fights – no one wins. And the truth is – that no one can change another person’s feelings, and moreover – it is not our job.
#3 Don’t Blame Yourself For It
We are so used to believing we are to blame for everything that happens around us; this is what we were all (or at least most of us) taught as little children ourselves, and so we carry this belief with us into our adulthood. And we suffer. For nothing. Because it doesn’t matter why she is crying now – the only thing that matters is that she is crying. Today’s reason is already in the past, but tomorrow can only be better if we believe that we did everything we could today.
#4 Don’t Take It Personally
No matter how old our children are, most of us think that they cry because we did something / didn’t do something / they love us less or any other explanation that only aids to our scarring of our own soul. Refer to the previous article – it’s not your fault, and it is not yours to take personally. Your child is crying because her needs are not being met. That’s that.
#5 Don’t Worry
Whenever we are faced with a situation that we do not know how to handle, our thought pattern is compelled to invent stories to fill in that knowledge gap that the human brain can’t stand. We can’t stand not knowing. This is the reason for which every cry becomes teething/fever/growing spurt/ separation anxiety and whatnot. While all that definitely might be – it doesn’t matter. We only do this to get ourselves in the know. The less we let our thoughts run wild – the more present and grounded we are with the situation.
#6 Don’t Accept Everything That You Are Given
Help, advice, and support come in various ways. Some will help, advise, and support you; others won’t. It’s okay to say, “thank you, but this is not helpful.” Everyone around us has their ideas of how to handle children’s big emotions, and to most – the way you are doing it would not be accepted (just because you are not them). It’s okay – they have the right for their own thoughts and opinions; but remember – this has nothing to do with you and your child.
#7 Don’t Live For The Future
Children’s big emotions are often created in the name of the unknown future, for which most of us are willing to sabotage our present. When in reality, we can’t ever know what the future holds, what would be the result of our actions, and how others will interpret our words. What we do have is the present, and the vividly living needs and feelings of the given moment. The present is our only certainty. Make each moment good and pleasant. Tomorrow is a brand new day.
#8 Listen To Your Heart
I know it sounds tacky, and I don’t even like using this sentence myself, but it’s only because it has been so rudely overused and no one knows what it means. We can only listen to our hearts when we shut down the stream of consciousness we live in, and it’s not an easy thing to do. Everyone around us will keep on dragging us back in, telling us what should we do, how we should react, and what we should say. Don’t listen to that. Just don’t.
#9 Listen To Yourself
Your emotional availability is a massive factor in your children’s big feelings; everything is connected. It doesn’t matter what stage of parenting you are in, you will need help. You will need space. You will need to sleep. You will need your autonomy. You will need time. You will need a place to be, just as you are. Admit it, know it, ask for it. Follow a self-care routine that acknowledges your inner needs.
#10 Differentiate and Refer Back to #9
Your house doesn’t have needs. The dishes don’t have needs. The laundry doesn’t have needs. You have needs. Your partner has needs. Your children have needs. Everything else is a strategy that can be changed. Differentiate between needs and strategies, define your boundaries following the words of your heart, and reinvent your life.
You got it, mama!
No matter how old your children are, these 10 mindful practices will help you handle their big emotions and grow closer to them, while building their coping skills, resilience, and emotional intelligence.
Join my life and parenting support group on Facebook, see how these concepts translate to real life, and make PEACE the path you travel 🙂