When we can better feel, we feel better. Let me show you how it works.
As a parent I know that the one thing I want for my children is that they do not struggle with things that don’t reflect who they really are. What do I mean by this?
I mean that I don’t want them to spend time in relationships, in work, or with their free time, doing any of the following:
Doing what others people want in order to feel loved or feel secure.
- Doing activities that they don’t really like in order to fit in with other people.
- ‘Caring’ for themselves by over eating, getting zoned out with drugs, gaming.
- Having no way to tell someone when they feel hurt, sad, angry or lonely.
- Worst of all, not having a clue what they feel or why they feel as they do.
There are many other ways, but you get the idea. It’s about knowing yourself, being yourself and expressing yourself and not wasting precious hours of your life doing things that take you away from yourself.
So, how might we help children to connect with themselves and stay connected? Try these three steps:
Listen: The first helpful thing is to listen to them, to hear without judging or even commenting. When we do that, we are gifting space to the person and their real voice.
Label: The second helpful thing we can do is to hold back on giving solutions too quickly, and instead to help them describe their feelings. How might this work? Well, supposing your child says ‘someone was mean to me today at school’; instead of saying ‘best not to play with them again’, try ‘how did that make you feel?’
Often we can try to bypass the feeling bit and go straight to solutions, but until the feelings are named and their importance acknowledged, they hang about and their energy cannot be used positively.
Helping to label feelings and link them to subsequent actions ( e.g. you walked away because you felt embarrassed) is a key skill. With practice, your child is helped to know how his/her feelings affect them. So, he/she will know, for example, that they find it hard to stay with sad feelings and instead get angry and lash out. The more our children know about their feelings and the patterns they follow, the more they will be able to just stay with them, and the less likely they will be to ‘act out’ with unhelpful behaviours, reduced attention or poor sleep.
Learn: The third helpful thing we can do is think with them about solutions. What have they learned from this and what might they try to do next time? What could they do for themselves? Who else could they ask for help with the problem?
When we can better feel, we feel better.