Allowing our kids to experience negative emotion can feel hard to us! But it is such an essential skill!
When we try to eliminate all negative emotions from our kids lives, they don’t develop emotional resilience. When things start to feel uncomfortable, they may see it as a sign to “opt out.” But as they practice facing challenging situations and finding ways to work through them, they become more capable in doing so.
It make sense when we get a call from them saying things like:
-I can’t live in this dorm room.
-There isn’t enough natural light.
-My professor is boring.
-I don’t like my missionary companion.
-This is hard.
that we want to hurry and “fix” it. We may feel that a parent’s job is to help our kids be happy all the time. But is that really true? What benefits come to our children when they learn to allow for negative emotions? How will that bless their lives? I have found that my kids are much better at solving their own problems than I am. When we feel an impulse to step in and fix things, here are some ways to slow it down.
- Remember that these challenges are part of the mortal experience. We will all have positive and negative emotions every day.
- Be curious and ask thoughtful questions. Not in a what-are-you-going-to-do-about-it? kind of way, but in an encouraging and supportive way. Questions like:
-What do you think you want to do?
-What feels like the right thing to you?
-What kind of outcome are you hoping for?
-What things have you learned in the past that will help you get through this challenge?
-How are you getting stronger from these experiences?
- When appropriate, share ways you have dealt with negative emotions in your life and how those experiences have made you stronger and more emotionally resilient.
- Express confidence in their ability to figure things out.
- Allow them to make their own decision, even when it’s not the decision you were hoping for.
One of the reasons we don’t like our kids to have negative emotions is that WE also have negative emotions about THEIR negative emotions! (I’m sad that she’s so sad!) When we can sit tight and allow them to feel sad or uncomfortable or lonely, WE also become more emotionally resilient.
Just to be clear, I don’t mean that we shouldn’t have any sympathy for them or that we should pull away when they need support, but I do think we should express confidence in their ability to figure out what to do.
They CAN do hard things. LET them.