“Welcome All Feelings.”
This is such a wonderful peaceful parenting mantra- for us and for our children. Remind yourself when you are feeling uncomfortable or upset. Remind yourself when your child is crying or having a meltdown. When we welcome and allow feelings, they will pass. This is crucial for resilience and emotional health. This can be hard because most of us we were not raised with this and big feelings can be really uncomfortable.
If someone says something rude to us, and we take a moment and feel the hurt and breathe through it, we can let it go. If we have to say no to an ice cream and we can let our child cry over the disappointment, they can cry a bit and then wipe their tears and go on with their day.
This is emotional resilience: the ability to feel our feelings and recover after a setback. We don’t need to shut them down with a, “Suck it up, Buttercup.” We also don’t need to fix it. We need to welcome the feelings.
They can handle it! Suffering is part of the human condition. And suffering when you’re 4 and you want another cookie is the practice for the hardships that get more serious as you get older.
And we don’t get to choose what is okay to be upset about. I know I would be very upset if my husband told me I shouldn’t be upset about something that I was indeed upset about!
The ability to feel a feeling contributes to emotional health. If we don’t accept our feelings (or our child’s) or we don’t feel safe to feel them in the moment, they can build up inside us. When we can’t feel and express (process) difficult feelings, they go underground and out of our conscious control. We hold them in our bodies until they can surface and be healed.
In peaceful parenting, we refer to the feelings held in our bodies as the emotional backpack. That hurt you didn’t allow yourself to feel, or that disappointment you don’t allow your child to feel, gets stuffed down in the emotional backpack. A chronically full backpack can cause a variety of emotional difficulties including anxiety, depression and explosiveness. A child with a full backpack is often demanding, difficult, inflexible, and prone to pick fights.
Welcome all feelings with empathy. Hold space for your child (or yourself) with compassion. The feelings will pass. Your child learns that big feelings are not an emergency and they can handle even the most difficult of feelings.
This post is one of the lessons from my Peaceful Parenting Mantras colouring book. Colour your own reminder to choose radical love. You can learn more about it here.
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Sarah Rosensweet is a peaceful parenting coach and parenting advice columnist for Canada's Globe and Mail newspaper. She lives in Toronto with her husband and three big kids (ages 12, 15, and 19). Sarah teaches parents a non-punitive, connection-based approach that uses firm limits with lots of empathy. Enjoy your kids again! Find her at sarahrosensweet.com