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I’m not really sure what happened. One moment my daughter, Ashlynn, was pretty average on the emotions scale and the moment she turned 5 it was like her emotional barometer was off the charts. Dealing with my own pregnancy emotions in addition to her’s had me in tears on more than one occasion. After receiving some awesome counsel from family and, yes, even professionals, I am happy to say that I am actually handling my daughter’s emotions with ease.
The breaking point
After having multiple conversations and receiving numerous messages from Ashlynn’s school, I realized that she had two ways of dealing with her emotions.
At home, Ashlynn was obedient and sweet. She was very rarely defiant or argumentative. There were typical issues with her not listening, but nothing over the top. Anytime she felt emotions, she would almost turn them off as if to choose to move passed it.
At school, Ashlynn was often acting out in defiance to orders. Ashlynn would act out, the teacher would ask her to sit out for recess, and she would absolutely refuse. When her teacher would threaten to notify us of her misbehavior, she would break down in tears and would be inconsolable.
I couldn’t understand why Ashlynn seemed to be two completely different people at home and at school.
After a lot of praying (and begging) God to help me understand why Ashlynn seemed so withdrawn, my husband and I decided our current methods weren’t working. So we decided to reach out.
We talked to multiple family members who gave us mixed opinions on why Ashlynn may be acting out at school. But we couldn’t find any answers that would truly resolve the issue.
So we decided to see a counselor for parenting. We knew we wanted to get on the same page for both Ashlynn and the sake of our marriage (because let’s face it, we all have different opinions on how best to parent our kids).
Identifying the issue
Soon into our meetings with our counselor, we were able to truly identify the issue. This didn’t come easily, but when it did, it was absolutely clear. We were not truly teaching our daughter how to handle HER OWN emotions.
It was simple. At home, she was being told “happiness is a choice.” Although we stand behind this statement, we didn’t realize how to help Ashlynn connect her emotion with her intellect. I will talk to you more about that in a minute.
At school, Ashlynn was exploring with her emotional outlet’s. She was learning how other children expressed their emotions. She was also exploring how her emotions would be received by her teachers.
After a good amount of trial and error, and with the help of an amazing counselor, we were able to determine some really practical ways to handle our daughter’s emotions.
5 Steps to Handle your Daughter’s Emotions
Time and Place.
Let’s face it, even as adults, there is a time and place to discuss emotions. The middle of a wedding ceremony or crossing the street aren’t prime places to be discussing everything on her mind. If it is the wrong time or place, set an appointment for a later time to discuss what she is feeling.
If you had told me to “validate my daughter’s feelings” 6 months ago, I would have thought you were being sarcastic. To me, that meant I was telling Ashlynn to allow her feelings to have control. We believed feelings lie to us. Feelings are real, however, the thoughts that led to that feeling are often lies. You validate her and the fact that she is having the feeling. For us, this is simply telling her, “I’m sorry you’re feeling like that right now, honey, let’s talk about it some more.”
Build the ladder.
This is the best and most important part! As I said earlier, our job is to help our children bridge the gap between the emotion and the intellect. Often, the lies we tell ourselves lead to an emotion. Thoughts of jealousy, unworthiness, perfectionism, etc. However, when we begin to build the ladder between emotions and intellect by asking intentional questions. For the purpose of this step, I am going to provide an example: Your daughter expresses that she doesn’t feel loved when she has to spend time in her room by herself.
- Why do you feel that way?
- Do you feel like mommy and daddy don’t enjoy spending time with you?
- Do you believe that we don’t love you when you are in a different room?
- Aren’t you just as special to us, even when you play alone?
- Don’t you think it’s fun to enjoy all of your toys on your own?
- during this conversation your child uses their whole intellect to determine that they are in fact loved and can enjoy their time alone as much as their time with others. With your help, they have built the ladder between their original emotion and their intellect.
It’s incredibly important to teach your child that others are not responsible for managing their emotions. Not even you. It’s just as important to teach your child to seek God and reflect within themselves in order to resolve their own emotions. At any point in these steps, feel free to have your child spend some time alone to think more about their feelings before having a conversation with you. Pray with them or have them pray alone in their rooms. Sometimes this simple step can resolve the issue by itself.
This process takes time and patience. Consistency is the best policy, here. The more you walk your children through this process now, the easier it will become as their emotions begin to intensify. They will soon be able to go through this process quickly and eventually on their own. Don’t give up! God has given you these children to guide and love and has empowered you to do so. You got this!
Comment below with some of the ways that you handle your daughter’s emotions.