There are times in life when you’re faced with sadness. It happens to everyone. Children are certainly not immune from experiencing unhappy events. As a parent, you can help your children cope with and work through their feelings in healthy ways.
Humans experience a wide range of emotions and there are a lot of names for these emotions. It isn’t that the emotions are good or bad; they just are; yet, how you feel as a result of those emotions can be described as feeling happy or excited or feeling sad or angry.
As a child, you’d naturally gravitate towards the things that feel good, but you didn’t necessarily know how to deal with the strong negative emotions that are part of life. If you envision a pendulum with extreme joy on one end and utter heartbreak on the other end of the swing, then you can better understand emotions for a child.
For most adults, the emotional pendulum doesn’t swing to the extremes very often. You may spend more time in the mid-range of emotions.
Children are different. They experience the extreme ends of the pendulum swing, sometimes very quickly swinging from one mood to the other completely, bypassing many emotions in the middle. The cause of strong negative emotions may seem to be quite small and insignificant to you.
Kids also can experience major loss, whether it is a friend moving away, an older sibling going away to college, parents going through divorce, or the death of a beloved pet. Whether or not you think the child’s reaction is appropriate to the situation is irrelevant in these cases. In moments like this, the emotion for them is real, and it is big.
Rather than focusing on being able to identify what the feeling is or where it is on the emotional pendulum exactly, it is important for kids simply to recognize how they feel. Ask yourself — do they feel good or do they feel bad?
Once your children are able to recognize how they are feeling, you can help them deal with the emotion, and the issue behind the emotion. It is important to allow children to experience negative emotions and sometimes you just have to let them feel it, even if it is hard for you as a parent to see your child in pain.
You don’t want to just ignore the feeling and hope it will go away. It probably won’t. On the other hand, the more you focus on feeling sad and the longer you stay in that vibration, the more opportunities to feel sadness will come your way.
One thing you can do to help as a parent is to learn to recognize the signs in your child that the intense emotional period is waning. Then you can coach your kids to discuss how they are feeling. By encouraging them to check in with their feelings as you talk with them, you can help them learn to shift their emotional pendulum so it starts to swing back to the positive side.
But even if you’re handling your own grief over a situation, remember to tell your children that feeling sad is OK and that’s it’s a normal human reaction to bad situations. Give them all the support you can, and spend as much time with them as possible. Just be wary of signs that indicate that your kids aren’t handling grief as they should, such as acting out at home and at school, an extended period of depression, seeing behaviors that are those of children younger than their actual age (regression), or loss of sleep and appetite. These behaviors could indicate that professional help may be necessary, if they last for any length of time.
But usually, some care, understanding and allowing children to express their grief will be all kids need to bounce back. Even when it comes to emotions, kids can be quite resilient.
© 2014. Sharon Ballantine. All Rights Reserved.