Dealing with children and their emotions
Expert session Questions and Answers
Start by sitting with the younger child and first validate her sadness and perhaps anger too. No one likes to be left out. Ask her ‘how does it make you feel that your friend no longer wants to spend time with you?’ Give her time to express herself. Tell her it is ok to feel bad or sad or angry or jealous. Tell her how even grown ups feel bad when this happens to grown ups. Wait for her to respond in her limited words. Hold her hand and tell her ‘I can understand your pain’. See what she feels. She might want to cry. Let her cry.
Don’t give solutions. Just listen, all the time helping her to accept her sorrow, her sadness, her pain of rejection. You can ask her ‘what about the older girls she misses now that she doesn’t play with her anymore?’
Your worries are valid. You want to see your child happy and not feel rejected. You can ask your child how she feels? Ask her if she feels like not playing with them anymore. Or would she prefer to play only one-on-one with that friend and not in a group. You can allow her the space to feel sad, upset and angry and stay kind to her feelings as they are valid.
Sensitive children are simply more aware of their true feelings but also feel afraid to express their feelings because they feel having those feelings will make them look weak. But if you as a parent can help to see that having feelings and knowing them is a good thing as that helps human beings to make the right choices in relationships and situations, she might accept her feelings more.
The best way to say NO to children is by being vulnerable yourself as a parent by explaining the real reasons behind saying NO. For example, if you cannot buy her a toy explain to her gently how the month’s budget is short and it is hard for you as parents to buy for her now. Also explain to her in a nice way how, it is not that you don’t want to give her everything she desires, but genuinely at times it is difficult due to your own constraints or difficulties. Children don’t like Moral lessons, they prefer real reasons behind the NO. Parents often say NO in an angry or judgemental way rather than being open and vulnerable about why it is not easy to say YES at that moment. You could express your own fears, doubts and problems to her when you say NO and also give your reasons for saying YES.
This is common in young children. Do you laugh enough when with her or with your own family members? Watch yourself. Perhaps she is not used to seeing you happy in her presence more often. My son used to not like it when I danced with my friends. Then I started dancing more at home with the kids or just by myself in between chores. He got used to me. You can also ask
Her what about your laughing makes her upset. Maybe she is jealous and does not want to share her mom with others. It is common among children. You can tell her how it makes you happy when she is happy with her friends. Jealousy is a very basic human emotion. And yet children are made to feel bad about jealousy. But behind jealousy is the need for the same things in their lives which perhaps there are less or no opportunities for. So validating that jealousy and then seeing what need is behind that can help to bring that to our children or atleast accept that ‘Yes I understand you have this need, let us see what we can together do about it.’
Behind every emotion or outburst is an unheard or un-met need which is very simple and beautiful. When understood by parents and the children themselves, they become empowered human beings.
At adolescence children start to exercise their inherent nature to be independent and develop their own world view about things. What you see as mischief is his way of expressing his individuality. What can help improve your relationship with him is to actually tell him what about his behaviour is make you feel hurt or fearful. Ask him the reasons behind his actions. But not by scolding, but as a peaceful friendly conversation over a soft drink or pizza. Children start growing up to express their own ways. And often this does not agree with our ways as parents. We need to understand that what looks like a mistake to you might be his way. So try to understand his way and why he is doing what he is doing. The teenage years are when biologically and emotionally children start to create separate identity from parents and other adults. Try to see his gifts and talents more than otherwise. If you don’t do this now, you will find a stranger living in your house soon, especially boys.
I find when my son who is 14 can actually have a proper adult conversation explaining to me why he feels like doing things differently than me as it works for him. I listen and also give my views gently. But allow him to experiment with his ways.
Since you mentioned he is sensitive. That is your clue that he is feeling things more intensely than others in the house or school. Things which don’t affect others might be affecting him more. It is ok. All children are not the same. Perhaps the fault is in the way instructions are given to him. Perhaps he needs a different approach where instead of being ordered around he can be ‘requested’ to help and also given the freedom to help in house work that he finds joyful. You could ask him what he prefers to do rather than ordering him. Aggression happens when children are not heard for who they are. He feels he has to be aggressive otherwise no one will listen to his needs and feelings. So be gentle and kind and ask him how you can support him in his work and his chores and also that you would feel more close to him if he helped you a bit in house chores but give him the choice of what kind of chores he likes doing and when. Also since he is sensitive may be in his school work also he needs a different approach or needs to start doing other things which will give him more joy. So have that chat with him, slowly and steadily.
It won’t get solved in one go. Patience and perseverance is needed.
It is great that your son is kind and prefers kindness over aggression. Encourage that. He will find his kind of people when he feels it is alright to be kind. It is really better to be without friends than to be with fake ones. A lot of us figure this out much late in life, isn’t it? He has figured that out now itself. Does it bother him that he has very few friends? Ask him how he feels. Maybe it is just your fear that your son will remain friendless. Then share with him your fears. See what he has to say about it. Children are far wiser than we think they are.
This too is common with the older child. Her feelings are valid. She is feeling left out. One way to deal with this is to take out separate time with each child. You can do stuff with your older one separately and the younger one separately. And sometimes together. You can take your older one out on dinner or a movie alone to make her feel that she too is special. Have a day where food is made according to her choices, one day your younger one’s choices. Watch a TV show that she likes with her. Just remember it is common to feel the way she is feeling. Allow her to make choices that she wishes to make. That way she will see that she matters too.
Forget about making him ready for the real world. We need to raise our children to be kind and sensitive so that they can create a less harsh world and not prepare them for a harsh world. Kindness is learnt at home first. At schools first. This is his world now. Make it kind for him. Don’t walk on eggshells but understand his needs are different and go with that. Also let him know how sometimes his ways hurt you or make you feel sad. And ask him if there is something that can be done with his help to change the situation. Slowly things will change.
I understand. You can explain to him how his standards for people are too high perhaps and it is his choice to accept some shortcomings in others or remain alone. If he can learn to be happy alone and wait it out for the right people then it is fine or he can reduce his high standards a bit as the world is made of all kinds of people and he has the choice to choose.
My son is like that too. But over the years he has made peace with his high standards and has only a few selected friends. Some of us just have high standards of behaviour. One reason why our children also sometimes find us parents hard to be friends with, we expect such high standards from our children also right?
Not at all. It means either the study environment is not stimulating the child. It could mean the methods of teaching are uninspiring. Or that he needs to learn other things that are more interesting for him. Sports is not every child’s interest. Some boys are more imaginative and thinking types. More like artists or philosophers. More intellectually oriented. So losing interest is a ‘Big Clue’ that you need to provide other stimulations to the child. Bring other things to his table. Maybe he wants to study but not the usual way or the usual subjects or topics. Every child operates from a different set of intelligence. We as parents might need to educate ourselves what drives our children and work with those areas. I recommend Gardner’s Multiple Intelligence as a resource book.
Have more heart-to-heart conversations with your teen to understand what makes him joyful the most. You might get ideas from him only. Trust your child.
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Dola Dasgupta – Dealing with children and their emotions