As a parent of grown children, quite often, I fondly think back to when they were small children. Boy, they grew up fast! Sometimes, I am super proud of how I parented and at other times, I wish that I had done things a bit differently. I did the best I could with the skills I had at the time. One observation in my reflections has been that our own childhoods can profoundly influence who we are as adults and as parents. Pretty obvious, I know.
For me the memories of my childhood don’t have a lot of “emotion” attached to them. I don’t remember emotions typically being expressed. I do remember feeling happy, safe and encouraged from many adults in my life. I don’t specifically remember being asked, “How do you feel in this situation or how do you think others might feel?” I don’t remember adults labeling their emotions or talking to me about how they felt or being encouraged to express how I felt. This lack of experience with emotional expression without doubt impacted how I parented.
Fast forward to 2017 and my over 15 years of work in the world of social and emotional learning and evidence-based practices. The concept that all feelings are ok and we all have them is so easy now for me to appreciate. We are human beings with lots of emotions which is a glorious thing! I am much more comfortable with sharing and expressing my own feelings. I can with less difficulty encourage my adult children to share how they feel and reassure them that their feelings are normal. Even in the toughest of situations. It is normal to feel happy, sad, surprise, fear, anger, and even disgust. It has been an evolutionary process for me and my interactions with them.
My work and education have help me to understand the science behind why it is important to label your feelings. Labeling emotions helps to decrease their intensity. Labeling emotions is the first step in learning how to manage them. Labeling emotions helps to encourage executive function processes or problem solving. I try to be a good model for them in all of these areas. A work in progress we are all and Modeling is probably the most important thing you can do as a parent. Children watch you closely, whether they are younger or older and your actions speak much louder than your words.
What can I do?
Need some resources? Want to find out how you as a parent how can you model for your child (young or old) to encourage emotional awareness and management? There is a Parent Toolkit ready to help! It’s in English or Spanish and contains a wealth of information. Tips, conversation starters, and booklists for PreK-K, early elementary, late elementary, middle school, and high school. Give it a look and let me know how it goes!
Picture credit: Captured from ParentToolKit.com April 2017