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Surviving Parenthood - Creating a Healthy Relationship with Emotions

father and son

As an adult, I struggle with healthy emotions.

There are a million and one reasons why I am this way. I can blame trauma, poor parenting, and lack thereof, but most of all - being told I couldn’t feel a certain way.

As parents, we strive to do more for our children than what was done for us.

For me, the bar isn’t set all too high, but I am determined to break a few cycles.

I’m determined to teach my children how to have a healthy relationship with their emotions.

Emotional Development

child outside

Whether we realize it or not, we are responsible for nurturing our child’s emotional development.

How we react on a day-to-day basis can define our child's emotions not only now, but shapes their relationships with their own emotions and relationships.

Children are to be seen and not heard While “children are to be seen and not heard” maybe a few generations back, this is how I was raised.

This was what was expected of me.

Unless I was happy (and even then….) I was meant to be playing quietly, not distracting anyone.

If I was upset, sad, mad, or showing any emotion outside of gratitude I was made to feel like those feelings didn’t matter or that I was ill-equipped to feel them!

I will often time catch myself downplaying my toddler's emotions, the reactions of my big kids, and even my husband at times.

This may just be a me problem, but I can’t help but think I’m not alone here. When is the last time you thought someone was overreacting?

Was it warranted? But even then - does it matter?

If our children feel a certain way we shouldn’t be “feeling shaming” them. Feelings don't have to be logical, and you don't have to "correct" them.

Rather than trying to talk your children out of their feelings, console them and let them know you love them.

Expressing emotions does not imply that they should be able to act on them.

Tommy may be upset with his sister, but hitting her is not appropriate.

It’s okay to feel your feels As an adult, I’ve been blessed to finally be surrounded by people who lift me up when I’m down and call me out when I’m being...unreasonable.

I’ve learned that it’s okay to have our feelings- even and especially when they may be irrational.

We need to feel them, find the cause, and if it’s necessary check ourselves.

Our children are no different! They’re tiny humans who are still trying to regulate their feelings and emotions and their brains are much, much less developed than ours.

Feelings don't have to be logical, and you don't have to "correct" them.

Rather than trying to talk your children out of their feelings, console them and let them know you love them.

The Guilt

child at window

I’m truly plagued with guilt here more than any other area of parenting.

I often fail to remember that they are just little humans and their feelings are big - not unlike my own.

They can be stubborn, passionate, and everything else in between.

They’re allowed to wake up on the wrong side of the bed as I often do.

I feel like I am oftentimes dismissing them, because “what could really be so hard for them!?” and there it is.

Just that thought can be dangerous.

I’m being dismissive - even if it’s just in my head I’m repeating the cycle I’m desperately trying to break.

Giving Yourself Grace

woman with scarf

I have to remind myself that there are traumas, manipulation, and abuse that happened over decades.

I am not always going to be the perfect parent- no one is, but this balance, seems like a constant uphill battle.

It’s ingrained in me that I need to be reactive. I’m working through all of that and I may never be truly okay, but I’m also okay-ish with that.

Giving myself some grace means reminding myself that the perfect parent doesn’t exist and that just recognizing when I’m not creating a healthy relationship with emotions for my children.

Emotional Needs

baby in hat yawning

Being cognizant of our children's physical needs is easy.

Healthy food, weather-appropriate clothing, and some sort of a sleep schedule are all tangible.

While we are providing the physical needs of our children we should also be cognizant of our child's emotional needs.

Children with good mental health will think clearly, socialize more effectively, and learn new skills.

Good friends and supportive words from adults are also critical in helping children grow self-confidence, self-esteem, and a positive emotional outlook.

The more that we can listen and understand our children, the better. Not too long ago for reasons that will remain nameless, I was researching narcissism and how I can avoid raising my children to grow up with those traits.

Avoiding praise only when large accomplishments are achieved - especially when you’re not present in the day-to-day is a big no-no.

What else?

Making a big deal out of mistakes or faults.

Basically, we just need to be decent humans. Be with them. Not in the same room, but present when they are talking to us.

Help them work through their mistakes and inevitable failures and set realistic goals to boost their self-confidence.

We will never be able to love our children too much nor give them too much understanding.

Modeling Behavior

mother holding toddler in cloth diaper

I grew up not being around any adults in relationships and my husband grew up witnessing a skewed reality of relationships.

We’re quite the pair.

Over the years, we’ve come to terms that we are going to argue in front of the kids. I

t’s just going to happen.

We’re not screaming bloody murder in front of them, but some arguments are healthy.

We feel that we are teaching them that being upset and angry IS okay sometimes.

Sometimes you’re going to find yourself in an argument and we’re modeling the appropriate response.

Okay, yes, we’re not only modeling the argumentative behavior but the good stuff too!

I just thought it may be helpful to some of you debating how to handle fights as they arise.

We feel that only showing them only the good will make them question their relationships as they grow.

If we model a perfect relationship they may expect one. Build Trust Ya. That thing that we as adults demand.

Trust

toddler sitting on bed

I grew up with little to none of that, but creating this with tiny humans as it turns out isn’t terribly difficult!

It ties back into their physical and emotional needs. As we provide food when they’re hungry, blankets when they're cold, and snuggles when they’re upset we’re building trust.

Oh! And uh, stop with the lies - yes even the little white lies.

Be consistent and be honest!

There’s nothing worse than saying you’ll get ice cream later knowing full well that you won’t.

Self-Esteem Development

toddler in cloth diaper outside

This one….this is one that I lean on my husband for quite a lot. I

t’s hard to help a tiny person build their self-confidence when you, yourself still struggle way more than you should.

That said, it doesn’t excuse us from trying our best! Allow your kids some freedom!

Okay, this I am actually good at.

When you allow your kids to make some decisions or complete a task on their own that’s not only showing them that you trust THEM, but that THEY are capable.

Win-win. I like those.

Healthy self-awareness is a big one, at least in my book.

My oldest is on the spectrum and has quite a few learning disabilities.

Before we were able to get him into the right school with the right services he was so hard on himself.

He would say things like “I will never be able to read” and that is the most gut-wrenching feeling.

You hearing that your baby is struggling and feels bad about himself when you think he’s the coolest thing since well-everything.

Challenge your kiddos to find their own affirmations and help them in whatever they’re struggling with.

Ask questions like “What do you think you could do to get better?”

Stress Management

cloth diaper baby in chair

I’m kind of having my own personal giggle right here.

Stress management is HARD. Stress management as an adult is HARD.

You want me to teach stress management to a toddler? Pfft. Ya right.

We have to start somewhere though!

Although it is important to shield your child from suffering such as harassment and abuse, you cannot eliminate your child from feeling stress.

Stress is a natural part of life, and teaching your child how to cope with it in a safe way now helps set him or her up for potential success.

Talk with your child and find what activities help them destress.

My oldest does well with affirmations and coloring.

If I tried to encourage that to my middle child it wouldn’t go well. He needs to let it all out in his bed.

Alone. When he’s ready to talk about it he’ll come to find you.

Be proactive. Make a mental note of what works and what doesn’t and don’t be afraid to check in with your children and ask how they’re feeling.

Recognize that You May Need Help

brothers in cloth diapers

My middle child has very big feelings. I mean it. BIG.

Big ups and big downs.

There isn’t really a middle ground with him.

He can, and does explode with what we call “hulk tendencies”.

Our older two self-regulate pretty well, but we knew something wasn’t quite right.

Nothing we did or tried at home did much good.

He was constantly on an emotional rollercoaster and it was devastating to watch.

We had to seek outside help. Play therapy helped so freaking much.

Seriously.

We even had a few sessions with his siblings.

Everyone in the home was struggling, but now we all have a greater understanding and some tools in our toolbox to help not only him but the rest of the household.

Conclusion - Creating a Healthy Relationship with Emotions

baby sleeping with blanket

When you feel so mad that you want to roar…. You know where I’m going with that, don’t cha?

Big deep breaths. We got this. You got this. Your child has got this!

With some love and support, your child can have healthy emotions and relationships!

I’m no expert. I’m not. Not in psychology nor parenting, but I know we got this.

We don’t get home from the birth center with a book on everything we need to know and they still let us take those babies home.

One thing I didn’t mention before though is that you have to take care of yourself in order to take care of your children.

One of the best things you can do is to take care of your own mental health.

We’re always expected to give from empty cups. Let’s be honest, sometimes we just don’t have a choice.

Just as we want to encourage the kids to find what destresses them, find what helps you decompress.

If that fails, buying sh*t always feels good.

I’m not saying you should do that, but if the shoe fits….

If your child is calmed and comforted by warmth or lavender it’s worth exploring Warmies.

Warmies are stuffed animals that can be warmed up!

They’re full of real French Lavendar and Flaxseed which provide hours of soothing warmth and comfort.

Click HERE to explore these therapeutic animals.

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