With all the challenges we are facing the last couple of years children have an increased need to feel safe and secure. I’m not referring to material safety. In her book “Understanding Childrens’ Emotions,” Isabelle Filliozat talks about children’s need to have a sense of security.
How do you cultivate that? Children want and need to trust their parents. In order to feel this trust they need to be certain of their parents’ personal power. Unlike what some may believe however, being a strong parent has absolutely nothing to do with being dominating. On the contrary, strong is the parent who expresses their feelings and gives space to their child to do the same. I bet that’s a definition of the word “strong” you hadn’t thought of.
Whether pleasant or not, our emotions have names and it’s significant to recognize them. By doing so we accept ourselves just as we are. That’s how we start to trust ourselves and how we become trustworthy.
When we acknowledge our emotions, when we are able to name them and learn to tolerate them without criticism or fear we strengthen our personality. We also understand that our emotions alone cannot destroy a relationship or a person and that makes us feel more secure.
More than often though we adults tend to hide our emotions and don’t talk about them. As a result, without realizing it, that’s exactly what we teach our children to do. And when our children misbehave we take it personally and punish them.
What I would recommend to do instead is to take a step back and think what may be the reasons for that behavior. They may be fighting about a toy or screaming about ice cream but the question is what lies behind the surface. What may be the possible emotions they are suppressing – unknowingly sometimes – and why?
We adults need to learn to decode the language children use – something “grownups” forget easily – and allow them to feel what they feel. “I understand you” is a very useful phrase. For example, “I understand you’re angry but I love you the same.” This is how we can help them to avoid feeling guilty and to start calming down. Knowing it’s ok to express their righteous anger allows them to have a sense of their limits and at the same time helps to strengthen their identity.
Expressing their feelings, even by crying, is a therapeutic process. We must allow them to “talk” and give them the space to live emotionally. Because the contrary, suppressing their emotions, may alter their personality. And this doesn’t make us strong parents.