My Child: “Mommy, what happens if we get stuck on an elevator?”
Me: “Press this red button and someone will come help get us out.”
My Child: “What happens if the red button doesn’t work?”
Me: “Then, we’ll call someone for help on Mommy’s phone.”
I did not go down the wormhole of how cell service does not always work! This was the moment I knew my daughter was just like me. I come from a long line of women who love their people deeply and worry about them deeply as well. This did not come as a surprise to me that this generational tendency would be passed down to her too. The good news is that I have spent several years working on managing stress through therapy. This gives me a leg up in how I am able to support her, hold space for her, and hopefully teach her coping mechanisms to manage stress. Here is what I have learned in her short life:
- Tantrums: When my daughter is having a tantrum, her little body is in fight or flight mode. This is not the time to explain why she can’t get her way at the time. I am not always perfect at this, but I do my best to hold space for the emotions to pass. Once she feels her feelings either with me, my husband, or by herself depending on what she’s asking for, THEN we can have a calm, rational discussion about the WHY.
- Talking Out Her Feelings: Sometimes she just needs to talk out why she is feeling a certain way and get reassurance. The goal is to never dismiss her during those times when she is feeling her feelings. Feelings of sadness, anger, frustration, or fear are all welcome and ok to feel. The hope is to take away the element of shame that can happen when it comes to navigating feelings that come up.
- I’m Not Afraid to Say, “I’m Sorry.” As much as I try to remain calm, I get overstimulated, touched out, or simply get asked one too many times to get one of my children a drink or mac’ n cheese. When I’m feeling overwhelmed, I may have an overreaction about something small. I am not afraid to apologize for taking out my bad day on my kids and to normalize having human moments.
- Allowing Her to Have a Bad Day or Negative Emotions: There is an unrealistic expectation for kids to always be respectful. They could be tired, hungry, sleepy, etc. As humans, we have bad days and sometimes that bad day spills out in imperfect ways. Our children are learning how to regulate their emotions. I know plenty of adults who are not capable of that at age 50. This is why you see perfectly grown adults going off on one another in the middle of a grocery store in a YouTube video. They never learned how to process emotions and set boundaries in a healthy way.
- Your Own Triggers: In choosing to help your child process emotions in a healthy way, you will have moments where you feel triggered by childhood experiences from an authority figure. There is emotional labor when you choose to allow your kids to process their emotions in a safe space.