As another year approaches, we are each praying that we and all our family members will have much success in all areas. While hoping and praying for the best is very healthy and normal, we must also realize that each day that we are given provides us with a new opportunity to overcome some challenge.
If you are a mother you will, indeed, have a parenting challenge daily. Whether it is disciplining a child who says he would rather not do homework, helping a child love his siblings, or staying calm after a huge spill, something difficult that requires emotional growth on your part will present itself.
Making the Best of Emotional Challenges
How can we capitalize on our emotional challenges, so that we can grow stronger from them?
I will share with you a conversation that happened in my home at the beginning of the summer to help shed some light on this concept of thriving during emotional challenges:
It was the end of June and one of my kids was all packed up to go to sleepaway camp for his first time ever. The night before he left, we were chatting and I decided to tell him something he already knew, that sometimes kids get homesick in camp. I told him this because I wanted to segue into the following conversation. I continued to ask him, “What do you think is the difference between a kid who gets homesick and isn’t functioning (staying in his bunk, calling his mother all day to come get him, etc.) and a kid who is homesick, and is still functioning well (playing baseball, swimming, etc.)?
He thought for a minute and then said, “The kid who isn’t functioning probably thinks that he is supposed to make himself stop being homesick.” BINGO! I would not have used those exact words, but I loved how he explained it. I probably would have said that the child who is not functioning thinks that something is wrong with him feeling homesick. Same idea. Basically, whenever we experience any form of emotional challenge, it is NEVER the emotion itself that is the problem. It is what we THINK about the feeling that can cause anxiety or out of control huge feelings that lead to dysfunction. So, a healthy child knows that he or she can feel homesick, sad, disappointed, frustrated, or any feeling on earth, and nothing is wrong with that. Feeling a full range of feelings is simply part of the human experience! It would actually be strange if a human being did not have a full range of feelings.
So, look how differently things can look when we acknowledge the normalcy of that.
Your daughter spills an entire container of orange juice all over your new carpet. You are feeling enraged. You acknowledge that your feeling is a normal part of being human, so in your utter frustration, you take out the carpet cleaner and scrub away. Quietly. No harm done. All because you did not judge yourself or think you needed to do something about your extreme feelings. And one of the best parts of all this is that you just modeled awesome emotional health for your children!
Feel the Feelings and Process Them
My daughter recently almost drowned in a pool. You can just imagine how shook up she was afterwards. I was thankful for the opportunity to help her process the trauma in a healthy way. She simply sat on my lap shaking right after this happened, and I barely said a thing. I just hugged her and stayed with her and her feelings. I asked her if she was feeling scared and when she nodded yes, I just told her it is so normal. Of course, I made sure to point out to the rest of my crew that this is what healthy processing of emotions looks like. The feelings eventually subsided (not due to any prompting, but simply because all feelings pass). Within a few minutes I was shocked to see that she was inching back into the pool. Why not? She experienced normal fear, allowed herself to process her feelings, and then was being resilient (which is a natural default setting for all people).
So next time the kids are fighting, nobody wants to listen, and you are wondering what to do next, just feel your feelings, and then you will be able to come up with the smartest solutions to these daily challenges.