Helping Your Kid Navigate Their 27 Different Emotions

Navigate-Emotions.jpg

by Holly Crawshaw

Have you ever found yourself in tears for no real reason? Or have you ever been so frustrated that you wanted to throw something? (Maybe you even did!) Or have you ever woken up one morning with an overwhelming sense of anxiety but couldn’t quite pinpoint what exactly you’re so worried about?

27 Different Emotions

Studies say that we have at least twenty-seven different, distinct emotions. Twenty-seven. Maybe that surprises you. Maybe you’re a fairly even-tempered, steady person who doesn’t experience super high highs or super low lows. Or, maybe you believe that stat because you’ve lived it. Maybe you’ve had twenty-seven emotions since you woke up today.

Either way, the fact is that humans are capable of feeling a lot. A lot quantity-wise and a lot depth-wise.

Have you ever stopped to think about how your kid is (or isn’t) navigating their twenty-seven emotions? Imagine being six years old and waking up with an uneasy feeling in your tummy and not really knowing what it’s all about. You don’t even know the word anxiety—much less the source of your discomfort.

That’s the situation some of our kids find themselves in—experiencing a wide range of emotions and not having the context, life-experience, or even the language to talk about them.

There are a few simple steps you can take as a parent to help them navigate their variety of emotions and process what they’re feeling.

1. First, Recognize the moment.

Whether or not your kid expresses their emotions openly, they’re definitely experiencing them. If you have a more reserved child, knowing when they’re feeling emotional may require you to observe changes in their behavior. Are they more quiet than normal? Have less of an appetite? Are they sleeping significantly more or less? Be a student of your kid and keep a pulse on when they’re not quite themselves.

2. Then, Remove them from the source.

Tell your kid that it’s okay to respectfully walk away from a situation or person before they take action on how they’re feeling. Give them permission to go into the other room and scream into a pillow. Walking away helps them take control of their emotions.

3. Next, Tell them to breathe.

It is scientifically proven that you will be incapable of thinking until you get blood and air back to certain parts of your brain once the adrenaline of a particularly emotional moment moves it elsewhere. Tell your kid to take deep breaths in and out until they seem calmer or more stable.

4. Then, Help them name it.

You can’t manage your emotions if you don’t know what you actually feel. Create a feelings chart so they can easily and visually determine what they’re feeling. Or, if they already know how they’re feeling, give them a sliding scale to rate it. For example, How angry are you? From “a little mad” to “ready to scream your head off”? Or, Are you more sad or less sad than that time it rained out your birthday party?

It may seem silly, but giving them context for what they’re feeling will help your kid weigh and process the levity of their current emotional state.

5. Finally, Refocus.

Give them a next step in addressing their emotion. If they’re bummed about failing their math test, suggest the two of you sit down and look at the incorrect responses to see where they went wrong. If they’re mad that their sister got a playdate and they didn’t, get out the family calendar and make a suggestion for the next time they get to have a friend over. Don’t solve their problem—just redirect their focus.

The most important thing you can do when it comes to helping kids navigate their emotions is to communicate that all emotions—even ones that make us uncomfortable are okay. There is no “bad” or “wrong” way to feel—only unwise or hurtful ways to respond.

Reassure them that what they’re feeling is temporary, but that the way you feel about them will never, ever change.

The Truth About Trust

truth.jpg

by Jon Acuff

When my daughter was ten, I told her that I would write her a story. 

I write for a living and I’m constantly reading about other authors who do that. On a whim, they write their kids a story and then voila, Harry Potter!

I wasn’t going to write her the story because I thought it would turn into a book. I was going to write her a story because it’s fun. As soon as I told her that though, she said, “Sure you will. You’ll write two pages and then quit.”

Body blow!

No one hits as hard as your kids can hit.

In that simple statement, my daughter revealed that when it comes to my ability to keep my word on projects, she has her doubts. 

I tend to be a starter. I am enthusiastic and excited at the beginning, but I tend to fizzle at the end. Apparently, McRae had watched that happen and was unsure if I would keep my word. 

That’s a trust issue and there are three things we parents need to remember:

1. Trust is built when words become actions.

When you do what you say, you build trust. When you don’t, you destroy it. It’s that simple.

2. Trust is small and slow.

Trust is a thousand tiny actions built up over time. One by one. Day by day. It’s not a home run moment, it’s showing up in small ways consistently. 

3. Trust can be rebuilt.

McRae knows I won’t forget her at soccer practice. She knows I’ll take her for ice cream when I say. Her comment revealed she didn’t trust me when it came to writing, but even that can be rebuilt. It is not lost. 

Trust is like the glue in parenting, it tends to hold your whole relationship with your child together.

Trust is like the glue in parenting, it tends to hold your whole relationship w/your child together.

CLICK TO TWEET

Don’t take it for granted. Build it slowly and if it’s been broken, admit it and then rebuild.

It’s not always easy, but it is always worth it.

Choosing to Trust in the Moment

trust.jpg

by Mike Tiemann

One of the things I admire the most about kids is the way they live in the moment. They don’t have to be responsible for things like retirement plans . . . coordinating the calendar . . . or figuring out what’s for dinner.

Can I be honest and tell you that’s one of the things I miss the most about childhood?

Think about the last time you started out on a family car trip. Before you’ve even left the driveway, your kids immediately ask to listen to a song or put on a movie.

“Give me a minute,” you say (with no small amount of frustration). After all, you’re thinking 10 steps ahead. As the responsible adults, we need to give our minds a chance to transition from what we’ve been managing to whatever we’re managing next. But kids? They’re in the moment, all the time.

They aren’t thinking about the route you need to take. They aren’t worried about road construction or traffic, or that new sound that just started from the back of the car that wasn’t there yesterday.

Kids don’t have control of any of those things. They have no choice but to trust.

They trust that you’ll get them to wherever you’re going, safe and sound. If something goes wrong, they trust you to fix it. They’re completely dependent on you for all those “adult things” that you spend all your time trying to manage.

Of course, those days of blind trust don’t last forever. As kids grow and change and mature on the path to adulthood, they move from dependence to independence—from reactivity to responsibility.

That’s good. That’s healthy. But there’s a cost. When we grow up, we have to take ownership. We feel like we have to take control . . . and if we’re honest, that can make it a lot harder to trust.

We don’t like it when life surprises us and takes us out of the driver’s seat. But it’s not a question of if we’ll get kicked out from time to time; it’s a question of when.

Those are the moments when it’s most important for us to trust—for ourselves, and for our kids who are watching. After all, we can choose. We have full ownership of our actions, but at same time, we don’t have to abandon the innocent trust that came so easily during childhood.

We might not see an easy solution to the problem. But even in the midst of that tension, we can choose to open our hands and say, “I don’t know what to do. But God, I trust You.”

It’s nice when trust leads to a happy ending. I like it when I can show my kids that everything works out the way I hoped it would—because then I can easily point to God’s faithfulness along the way. But I think the decision to trust is the teachable moment . . . not the outcome. When I feel out of control, I can still choose to trust God and believe that my life is in His hands. I don’t have to wait until everything is fixed; I can be honest with my kids and let them see the emotions that I’m struggling with along the way.

Our kids don’t have a lot of control in their lives—yet. But maybe we can model for them what it looks like to trust, regardless of the outcome. When they grow up, they won’t forget it.



What Should Kids Know About Good Friday?

good_friday.jpg

by Carey Nieuwhof

It’s Good Friday–one of the most humbling, powerful and difficult days Christians observe. To think about the trial, torture and execution Jesus endured for humanity’s sake is truly astounding.

If you’re like most of us, you might struggle to figure out how to talk to your children about Good Friday. I know when my kids were younger, I always wanted to skip to Easter Sunday . . .  to the happy ending. Something in us is hardwired to do that.

I can’t tell you how to talk to your kids about Good Friday. But I imagine there will be something inside you like there is in me that will want to spare our kids the tragedy of the story. Something that will make us want to pretend it’s all better, when maybe it’s not. The crosses we wear around our necks are far shinier than Jesus’ cross ever was. We always sanitize or ignore the things with which we are uncomfortable. We want to shelter our kids from a story that is gruesome.

No one wants to raise sheltered kids, but we sure try to protect them. The thought of your daughter falling off her bike and skinning an elbow makes you shudder (I’m not saying it shouldn’t). My natural impulse is to try to shield my kids from as much pain as possible. And so I will naturally try to skip over the message of today, or at least clean the cross up to make it less gruesome than it was.

But as my kids entered their teenage years, I realized that the world they are growing up in is indeed the world for which Jesus died. I can see the world they are navigating is complex, filled with tragedy, irony, joy and sadness. Life doesn’t skip us to the happy ending. It doesn’t for adults. It doesn’t for teens. And honestly, ask your third grader how things are on the playground sometimes. She’ll tell you. She sees the wrong and is trying to make sense of it.

Which is why I’m incredibly grateful for today . . . that we have a God who didn’t gloss over the pain we suffer through, but instead embraced it more deeply than I ever would dare. I’m thankful for the raw message of Good Friday.  Somehow, if we completely shelter our kids from the pain of today, we let them miss one of the most powerful realities they will ever encounter in this life.

I don’t know how to tell young kids about Good Friday in a perfect way, but I do know this: when we shelter our sons and daughters from it, we keep from them one of the most profound and powerful messages for their faith. A message that, in all honesty, they need to hear sooner than we might think.