Recently we lost one of Louie’s little goldfish – Shy.
It was one of his first experiences with death and he was really devastated. He spent a long time crying in my arms, every now and then he would look up and ask for a lollipop (he was given some last week) or to watch a cartoon. And in those moments I was so clearly reminded how we desperately want to escape our painful feelings and push them away through these outside distractions (sugar, screens, busyness etc).
Of course it was really painful for me to see him hurting and my reaction was to let him watch a cartoon to ‘help him feel better.’ Only, I know that it wouldn’t really make him feel better, it would just be pushing things down to deal with later. (Suppressed emotions contribute to behavioural/ physical/ emotional issues later on and will always bubble back up at a later time.) So instead, I held space for him and let him know that it’s okay and normal to feel so sad and that it would all be okay. We talked about a burial, then we walked along the waterfront collecting seashells and flowers to lay over Shy and then had a little funeral in the garden. We said some kind words and sang a song.
During the day L asked for cartoons some more (which he doesn’t normally). It’s a hard thing to navigate when your child is hurting, isn’t it? I wanted to be compassionate with him and the way he was processing things, so while we watched some cartoons together I was also really mindful of leaving lots of space to be present with him, to let the day flow gently, to spend time in nature and to play. Of course, I always encourage you to tune into your intuition because you will know what is best for YOUR child in any particular moment.
However, emotions and feeling them are a natural part of being human, even though they are sometimes painful…
There’s a whole spectrum of emotions ranging from those on one end of the spectrum such as guilt, shame, fear through to those on the other end such as joy, peace, love. A few years back, a mentor of mine, Marion Rose, Ph.D. (PsychoSpiritual Parenting) shared with me the idea that when we numb the ‘negative’ emotions we are also numbing the ‘positive’ ones. So we travel through life experiencing a narrow range of feelings in the middle.
The more I feel into things like grief, shame, fear, anger etc… the more I experience the opposite too. And the more I’m able to mirror and hold space for these feelings in my children. And this is why it’s important to me that I allow space for kids to feel into ANY emotion and not label them as positive or negative! They just are.
Allowing our children to experience the full range of emotions helps them to develop emotional resilience.
As you hold space for your child and allow them to feel into every aspect of being in that emotion, with your loving closeness right there, they are subconsciously internalising how to respond to that emotion, and how to respond to themselves while feeling that emotion… all based on the way YOU are responding to them. (and remember that it’s never to late to make changes to your responses if you’d like to)
Eventually, the grief passes and your child returns to their normal state. And now they’ve learnt that they can be sad/ angry etc and it passes. They bounce back. The world is still turning. They were angry/ sad and they’re still ok. They get to learn that they are safe in the world to feel a whole range of feelings.
This is the way we build emotional resilience and emotional literacy – through allowing our children to actually BE in those emotions and FEEL those emotions.
Do you have questions or would like to know more about this – I’d love to hear from you! You can get in touch through my Facebook page or via the form below and I’ll get back to you as soon as possible. And if you’d like my support to create more balance, ease and flow at home with your children, you can book right here.