Naming emotions: a step in mindful parenting
We have a lot of emotions going on in this household. We have them coming from all directions and its not just the kids we have to contend with. We have the emotions we as parents have that often times elicits specific emotions and behaviors in our kids. Hubby and I decided we wanted to parent from a space where we were able to put our emotions in perspective, name what's really going on so that our kids don't bear the brunt of misguided emotions. This emotional awareness journey didn't actually start with us, the grown-ups, our girls were increasingly becoming more aware of their feelings and a couple of them were not at all reserved about telling us what they feel, how we made them feel and what we needed to do about it.
Some of our kids are more emotionally expressive than others. Out of the lot, we have a couple of extroverts and some highly sensitive persons (HSP). Me being a highly empathetic person felt completely overrun by the onslaught of emotions I received on a daily basis and my husband who's approach was "put that sh&* on the shelf and lock it away" felt the need to get some tools to help us approach the emotional intelligence of our kids in a more healthy and productive manner. Not fully realizing the depth of how juvenile our own emotional maturity really was we purchased books, read articles and blogs that focused on the emotional growth and maturity of kids. It wasn't until he read Permission to feel by Marc Brackett and I read Parenting with presence by Susan Stiffelman that our paths merged and we both became awakened to the fact that we had work to do within ourselves and until we began that work we would not be effective at guiding our children in learning how to modulate their own emotional well being.
Enter the "All the feels" chart we have strategically placed on the refrigerator in order to have an all access area for anyone who may be "in their feelings" and needs to recognize the emotion, frame it, take action if needed and release. At the advice of my newly graduated psychologist sister (definitely a value add to the family), she recommended an emotions wheel of sorts that could help us guide our HSP child to identifying her emotions more acutely and accurately in order to prevent her "inner critic" from reeking havoc on her mental health. It has proven to be an essential part of our toolkit in growing and developing good emotional habits for everyone in the family.
Recently Hubby and I were having an intense discussion about some revelations his therapist had revealed to him. I was trying to be sensitive and affirming his willingness to take those emotions off the shelf and engage in a way that was completely out of his comfort zone but somehow how I showed up for him didn't have as calming effect. I started to get irritated and wanted to leave the room and his voice seemed to get more intense. He started walking back and forth in the kitchen trying to find things to clean and put in place (he's a stress cleaner). "Hey, " I said softly. We both paused. In that moment we decided not to give in to our old conditioned reactions to high emotional times but rather use our tool in order to communicate more effectively. "Let's take it to the chart." We both sat looking at the cartoonish grid of little monster like characters representing emotions and like a couple of kids took turns moving the the the magnet and framing the emotion each of us were feeling in that moment. I moved the magnet to frustrated and instantly felt relieved because I named it and gave myself permission to feel and the space to choose if I wanted to take action or just release it. Hubby moved his magnet to disappointment and almost instantly my frustration just melted away. Empathy and patience showed up in its place and as we sat there looking at the chart, he was able to express with even greater detail what was going on inside. I was able to remain present and not let my own ego get in the way and at the end we both felt listened to and like we had grown up a little emotionally.
This seemed like a way forward in dealing with the kids' emotional roller coasters as well. So since then we have gone to chart countless times and diffused numerous of meltdowns. Hopefully we will add more tools to the kit as we learn how to become more aware of our own emotional triggers and how they impact how we relate to our kids and subsequently how we parent them to successful emotional beings.