How (and Why) to Teach Your Child that Emotions Are Okay

Many of us were taught as kids that it was not okay to feel strong emotions - high excitement, anger, sadness, fear were all frowned upon. Settle down, be quiet, pull yourself together, we were told. But the problem with that is we learnt to bottle up our emotions or try to get rid of them - resulting in pent up frustration, anxiety, depression or feeling totally disconnected from others.

We need to teach our kids a better way to handle emotions: (1) By Empathising and Accepting their Emotions and (2) by Supporting them to Cry.

Yes CRYING IS OKAY! (When it's supported and attended to.)

Ever wondered why your kids come home from daycare or school and are grumpy or cry or act out? They have a day’s worth of emotions that they haven’t been able to process. When they are with teachers, carers or friends they don’t get an opportunity to express their emotions freely – they learn to hold it all in. That is until they get home - then it all comes out with us parents!

Solution – let them cry it out on your lap. Or bang it out on the piano or with an old tennis racket on a sturdy tree trunk! Let them release the tension and they’ll feel much better. Then they will be able to talk with you about it and you can empathise with them and name the emotions they have been feeling. This lets them know that it’s OK to feel big emotions as long as they let them out in safe ways.

You are the safety zone for them. There’s no need for them to go off to their room and cry into the pillow, or punch the pillow alone. From a young age let them express it harmlessly with you and they’ll be much better for it as adults because they will be able to welcome their strong emotions and know they can cope.