As parents, it can be very hard to witness our children during particularly emotional experiences. Seeing our children feel intense emotions like sadness, disappointment and anger can make us feel compelled to "fix it," or want to prevent further experiences like this in the future.
Well, no matter how safe and loving the environment is that we provide, our children will, at some point, experience pain that we cannot control. But there are things we can do ...
Here are eight ways to help your child deal productively with his or her feelings to grow up into an emotionally healthy adult:
1. Validate feelings.
To many of us, hearing our children cry, or watching them have an angry outburst is very difficult. We feel their pain, but also feel uncomfortable and just want to make it stop. That's a very understandable reaction.
However, our children need to express their feelings, fully and deeply. They need to learn that their feelings are OK and that they matter.
Feelings that are expressed won't get bottled up, and that's a huge lesson for children to learn early on in life. Staying in touch with their feelings helps children later in life too: they become clear in knowing what they want, in making choices and in feeling and stating their boundaries.
2. Create healthy boundaries.
Many emotional breakdowns are a cry for help — and particularly a cry for healthy boundaries. Most of us are aware that our children are bright souls with great inner wisdom; we know they have to live their own lives. As a result, we might be tempted to think that we have to allow your child full freedom all the time.
Whilst our children have incredible soul wisdom, they are not independent of us and they need us for their safety. To children, clear, healthy boundaries will feel like safety. They show that we as parents are the calm, grounded and present ones: we will guide them through life safely. When we are not clear with our boundaries by being too permissive or inconsistent, our children will behave in a way to reflect this.
3. Recognize the importance of undivided attention.
More often than not, children require 100% of our attention. Why? Attention is a basic survival need for children. That's why if it's not present in their family situation, children will develop behaviors that will enable them to get the attention in any way they can.
This doesn't mean that we have to be physically present with your child all day and all night. The need depends largely on your child's age, and is different for each child. If you're suspecting your child's behavior has to do with their need for your undivided attention, make sure to schedule some time for that. Your loving, 100%-present, attention will feed and nurture your child in invaluable ways.
4. Try an energy-clearing visualization.
If your child is upset, it helps to visualize clearing his or her energy field. You can do this for your child by imagining a bright white light entering your child's body and flowing gently all the way through, clearing and balancing all the energy along the way. You can guide your child through your visualization. If your child is old enough and likes to do it, you can let your child do this exercise as a little game or with a song.
5. Make time for nature play.
Your child has a need to explore and discover new things. It's how children learn and it's also their way of expressing the pure joy of experiencing life.
Your child needs space and time, without distraction from you or distracting electronic devices, in order to follow his/her own inner curiosity. Your child needs free, uninterrupted playtime.
Free play and running around time in nature helps your child balance, ground back into his or her body and release excessive energies and feelings picked up from others.
6. Take advantage of good old H2O.
Have your child take a shower, a bath or have a swim. Water is relaxing and calms us down. More importantly, feeling water over their bodies will help your child feel cleansed of excessive energies and negative feelings. Be sure to dress your child in fresh clothes after the shower, bath or swim.
7. Be affectionate.
We all need physical touch. It helps our children ground, feel safe and comfortable in their bodies. Hugs are healing. Depending on the age and personal preferences of your child you could try massages, sitting snuggled together while reading a book or something, or even some gentle horse playing involving touch.
8. Center, ground and balance yourself.
If we're unclear, ungrounded and unbalanced, our children will pick up on it, and reflect it in their behavior. When your child is upset, take a couple of deep breaths, settle back into your body, feel your heart, your belly, your center.
Call all your energy back and release all energies that are not yours. From your own center and balance it is much easier to interact with your child, and your child will respond to it.