As a parent, especially after 2 years of pandemic living, you are already using up a lot of mental energy managing your own emotions and stresses throughout the day, let alone your kids'. So when theirs bubble over and get expressed with tears, anger or whining, it's not only easy to shut them down, it's sometimes hard NOT to.
The good news is, an occasional shut-down is not generally going to have long-term repercussions in a loving parent-child relationship. The not-so-good news is that children who grow up suppressing their feelings as a matter of daily life, become adults who are unable to express or speak up for themselves. In fact, because they are so used to suppressing their emotions, they have become unable to even recognize what those emotions are, let alone how to manage them in a healthy way. So when those emotions suddenly recur, like when under stress, they can easily overwhelm and produce anxiety or even panic. Worse, though, is the deep-seated depression that can slowly develop as a result of unexpressed sadness, frustration, or anger, for example. Sometimes that depression can manifest as what you'd expect depression to look like - but it can also look like apathy or passivity. Because it stems from a learned response: I'm not allowed to have feelings, so I will just pretend I don't have any. And the easiest way to do that is to push them down and not let myself feel them. And that is the most direct route to mental health problems.
And that is the most direct route
to mental health problems.
So how to avoid this without becoming overwhelmed yourself in a sea of your child's emotions mixed with your own stresses? The answer is to teach your child to express strong emotions in a healthy, manageable way that has purpose and direction and in the process they learn to take ownership of them. And in that same process, they become less frightened of their feelings and feel more capable of managing them on their own. This post is the first in a series intended to help parents understand some of the potential causes of anxiety, with a view to warding it off or learning strategies to manage it. Subscribe below to follow the series as we explore other causes and strategies.
HOW to teach your child to express those
emotions in that healthy, manageable way
The next post in this series will unpack the 'how' of what we've just looked at: HOW to teach your child to express those emotions in that healthy, manageable way, and ward off at least one cause of anxiety and depression. Subscribe to be informed when that next post is published.