Friday, August 19, 2011

Healthy Emotions

My husband, Adam, left this morning for a conference in Houston, TX.  He's gone to conferences before, but this is the first one since Rowan was born.  I always have had a lot of respect for single parents, when he's gone that respect just grows and grows.  Each conference he's gone to has presented me with new and different challenges as a parent.  The first conference Kara was just a year old and she got her first big illness.  I was unable to get much sleep or food.  All she wanted was to lay on my lap and be held.  Going to the bathroom was an adventure: have you ever tried to hitch your pants up when your child is strapped to you and throwing up at the same time?  Other conferences I've had the joys of explaining to Kara why her dad isn't there and why he wasn't going to be home for x days.   I got quite skilled at keeping her distracted from his absence.  This time though I am presented with 2 new challenges.  The first being that I now have two children, one that is awake frequently during the night and needs much of my attention (and body).  The second is one I had not thought of before.

How do you express emotions around your children?  Prior to Kara when Adam would go to a conference I would have cried a bit, gone home, eaten junk food and watched TV, read some books, done a puzzle and stayed up way past my bedtime.  Now I know better than to spend my time watching TV, staying up late and eating junk food.  I'm sure I'll read plenty of books and may do some puzzles. Granted the books may not be more complicated than naming dinosaurs and the puzzles will have less than 50 pieces.  But what to do about the desire to cry?  Do I show Kara how sad I am that her dad has left?  Do I let her see how worried I am about how our time alone will go and his safety?  Or do I keep a stiff upper lip and keep on going as if nothing has changed?  If I don't express my emotions, in a healthy way that is, am I teaching Kara to not acknowledge her own emotions?  Does that teach her to be a stoic and afraid of emotions?  If I show her the tears does that then lead her to fear and worry when she shouldn't have that burden?  Will she feel she needs to take care of me since I am sad?  This also leads me to examine how we deal with Kara's tantrums and other outbursts of emotion.  Right now we ask her to calm down and say that once she is calm we can talk about what is bothering her. But does that teach her that she shouldn't express the emotion?  Would it be better to say "wow, you are really sad/angry/upset.  Let's take a moment to be that way, then we can calm down and talk about what has made you feel that way"?  We do try to acknowledge the emotion by saying "you sound really sad", but is that enough?  Do we need to give her more space to feel and express the emotion?  I want to raise children that are not afraid of their emotions and can express them in a healthy way.  I don't want them learning to stuff their feelings down or to think that it's not ok to let others know how they are feeling.  Emotions can be powerful and influence our thinking more than we often realize or admit.  To have a healthy relationship with emotions would allow them to recognize, feel, and then move on past the emotions so they do not influence their decisions excessively.  The question is- how to achieve that.

Submitted by Heidi-rose Creuzinger, member of NorthMetroDCMommies.  Heidi-rose blogs at Terror at 3 Feet & Rising.

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