Parents can help young children identify the emotions that they are experiencing by asking them questions. You seem mad, sad, angry, disappointed, frustrated, - is that what is going on? By using the word SEEM, we are not attaching any ownership to the emotion. I used to ask are you mad, sad, angry, etc, and this would project that my child, or even myself, was indeed this emotion, rather than being able to explore further as you will see in the first tool. By helping them identify the emotion, they will also be able to identify when others are expressing these emotions and it will assist them in knowing more of what is theirs and what isn't. Which leads us directly into the first tool.
First tool: Is this yours or someone else's?
Ask this question- Is this _(emotion)_ yours or someone else’s? Do you know anyone else who is feeling this way? Children can pick up other people’s thoughts, feelings, emotions, and even in some cases pain. And you do too. This question is so helpful in first addressing any issue. As you ask it, if you sense a lightness, it isn’t yours. When asking a child, they will often know but for those who have bought into the reality that if I feel it – it must be mine, we can tap into what we are aware of and guide them with some questions. When I ask you that question, what do you notice in your body or in what you know?
Example: Sadness- Children often pick up on other people’s sadness. I experienced this with my 3-month-old granddaughter the first day that she was left with us so her mother could return to work. We knew this was a sad time for mom, and as mom walked out the door that first day, baby suddenly drew a sad face. Immediately, I asked, "Is this yours?" Now at 3 months she couldn't tell me, but I felt that it wasn’t, because right away baby lightened up, and the energy around felt lighter. So, I just sent that sadness away and within moments baby was smiling again and happy. Once you and/or the child acknowledge that the emotion isn't theirs, they can send it away in whatever way they like.
Now let’s put that tool on top in your first aid kit as it helps to start with that. You may not need to go much further.
Second tool: Don’t resist or judge an emotion, thought or feeling.
Explore and be curious about it by asking more questions-
- What do I/you know about this _______?
- Is this my/your only choice?
- What’s the value of ________?
- Is this fun for you?
- Is this working for you? (Tone of voice)
- Who or what are/were you being?
- What would you like to be or choose now?
Again, when you ask your child these questions, you may find out some additional information. When we as parents can be okay with an emotion or a response, we have the capacity to guide our children into being more aware as well as being empowered to change it by making a different choice.
Example- Anger – I worked with a dad once who was having difficulty with his daughter’s anger. When we explored what the dad knew about this, he discovered that he felt triggered by her anger because growing up, he wasn’t allowed to have any anger or intense expressions.
Third Tool- Access Bars®, a hands on stress reliever
This is an awesome hands-on tool that all parents would benefit from having. Parents and grandparents have used this to help calm sleepless nights, fears, worries, stress, anxiety- and unfortunately many kids experience these things. It is simple, yet dynamic, process of touching points on the head that connect to the places where we store thoughts, feelings, emotions and considerations and release those that are creating stress and dis-ease. It allows a person to relax and let go without having to think about what is bothering them.
Example: A friend of mine was traveling with her niece who was having trouble sleeping in the hotel. She asked my friend if she would please put her fingers on her head and do that Bar thing. My friend did so and within minutes her niece relaxed and fell asleep, and didn't have a problem the rest of the night.
Example: I was working with a 5 year old who had recently been diagnosed with diabetes. As I ran his Bars, he was able to relax, and even create his own ways of calming down. There was a lot of stress going on in the family, and getting his bars run allowed him to not take on his family's stress.
Access Bars® is a type of energy work that is being offered around the world. There are practitioners certified to give sessions as well as to teach this amazing technique. You can learn more as well as search for a practitioner or class near you here.
Fourth Tool - Addressing your own sense of peace and calm
As mentioned before, kids pick up the energy of others including you. So one thing you can do is to calm yourself and work towards eliminating your stress levels. The above ideas help with that as well. And some additional items to have in your first aid kit include:
Laughter- Being able to laugh especially when when things are intense, helps to bring your adrenaline down, oxygen into your cells and shift your emotions. Making a daily practice of laughing on purpose with your kids will also show them how to shift their response.
Change your thoughts - If you find that your thoughts are going into more fear and worry, give yourself a mantra or statement to bring you out of that. All is well, I can do this, I am not alone, are a few examples. Find what works for you.
Music- Begin to use music around times for quiet, calmness, and be able to sing, hum or just recall a song or melody during a stressful time can bring your level of stress down and you can also use this for your child.
Nature- Go outside and connect with nature, pull energy from the earth, seek peace in seeing the beauty around you.
Breathe - Breathing is vital for our well being and yet we forget to make the most of our breath by being more conscious of how we are breathing. Deep full breaths that take in more oxygen along with full exhales that eliminate more of the CO2 help us to calm our nervous system. You can explore more about breathing here, and bring more awareness to your child as together you practice breathing in ways that enhance your wellness.
Essential Oils-Oils can be very helpful and when using them with children you do need to know what and how. I suggest reading up on the oils that are beneficial for what you are addressing and how to apply them for children or speak to an expert in essential oils. I found this article helpful.
While this may not be a complete list of what is in your emotional first aid kit, it will surely lead you to explore other options as well as give you plenty to apply when the time comes. Some of these of course are beneficial for preventing emotional breakdowns and strengthen us and our children to deal with our thoughts, feelings, and emotions before they take over. Being practiced and prepared with a variety of choices empowers you to be cool and calm when needed to reassure your child.
Take a listen to this episode of First Aid for Families on the Be You Parenting Radio Show below.