It is not too far-fetched to say we could all use a boost in our ability to handle stress. Our world, social media, and many other forms of information are bombarding our senses at a rate that many cannot handle; particularly children. If you are like me and you find yourself as a parent scraping the bottom of the barrel for the last vestige of energy to deal with the latest tantrum or whining; here is a short list on how to get an edge up for yourself and for your child.
- No one makes you mad
- Make it visual
- Practice with them…cause you need it too (come on now…be honest)
No One Makes You Mad: I have clear memories of challenging clients with severe anger problems around this. Many often simply did not believe it. It was as if they were battling some larger internal belief that had convinced them they had no ability to make a different choice or no ability to deal with emotions differently. The other night as I was reading my daughter a children’s book about fairies, and I saw a line in the book about “making” a fairy feel a certain way. I pointed this thought distortion out to her so she could begin to understand the truth. Our feelings are a choice. Many come on very suddenly. Others feel too big, but they are a still a choice. If a monk in the mountains of Tibet can lower their core body temperature at will with meditation; what are we capable of with our feelings? Our brain is literally organized to override our emotional selves when we want to. I am not saying it is easy and our children should know that as well. I am saying it is possible to regulate your feelings better than you might now and to gain mastery over those feeling and subsequent choices; just like a child gains mastery over reading and writing. Teaching them the truth about this, helps children stop blaming others for their emotional experiences which changes the locus of control and can be very empowering for a child.
Make It Visual: We need strategies to help us deal with our feelings better. We need awareness of where we feel things in our body so we can have a chance at making a different choice or regulating that feeling so it does not overwhelm us. In My Feelings Workbook, which I published in 2011, I created the Healing Hand, which is a coping skill tool that uses the memory strategy called the Method of Loci (the hand) to increase memory retention; which is crucial when trying to make a different choice when you are angry. In the new EQ curriculum, there are multiple lessons that focus on making things visual for children so they can internalize concepts about this big world of feelings. Basically, any way that you can make learning about feelings visual, you should do so for your child or student. Think of it this way. There is probably not a person on the planet who would not recognize the famous golden arches symbol right? Incorporate this concept into practical emotional regulation strategies for your child and expect and assist them in using those strategies at key times.
Practice It With Them: Whatever you do with your child about this feeling stuff; do it with them. You are not too old to start working on your frustration and your own choices. Children can spot hypocrisy a mile away. If your the parent of a teenager you know this to be painfully true. So be honest, be humble, learn with them. It does not usurp your authority as a parent or teacher to acknowledge you made a mistake in how you spoke to the child when you were frustrated. One of the best experiences I ever had as a clinician was when a 5 year old convinced his parents to make their own Healing Hands along with him. They all worked on managing their feelings together. It was pure magic!
Aaron is a licensed clinician in Denver Colorado, a Dean, national trainer and a father to 3 children. He published My Feelings Workbook in 2011 and recently released Building Emotional Intelligence: A Skills Based Curriculum For Improving Children’s Coping, Social and Academic Success – buildemotionalintelligence.com