Life comes with some wonderful moments, but also some moments of uncertainty and unpredictability. And then there are plenty of moments that are just plain uncomfortable. As parents, we tend to want to protect our children from unpleasant things, including difficult emotions that we know all too well ourselves. As much as we want to take those feelings of fear, disappointment, sadness and anger away, we can’t. And we shouldn’t. It is important for our children to experience those big emotions because it is through experiencing those emotions that our children first learn to understand them, and then to manage them.
Of course our children will not be able to do this by themselves. Just as we are willing to sit next to them as they colour, draw or squish playdough, so we need to be willing to join them in their emotional worlds. When we walk next to our children while they experience big emotions, we support their brain to form new pathways. Those new pathways will help them to not only manage their big emotions, but also deal with situations that are stressful and uncertain. But to best support our children with their big emotions we have to understand and be able to manage our own emotions first. Otherwise we could easily be pulled into our children’s emotional turmoil. This is why it is so important to look after ourselves first.