If I’m honest, I can’t really decide how I feel about feelings. Feelings are tricky. You can express them and suppress them, hurt them and hide them, show them, grow them, or not let anyone know them. You can feel feelings in a car, or feel them in a bar…ok, I’ll stop with the Dr. Seuss writing, but you see where I’m going with this. Feelings can be so BIG even when our kids are so LITTLE.
Do you remember the first time in which a little kid looked at you with big feelings and wanted you to fix things? It’s an awful feeling not being able to fix everything, but maybe we aren’t supposed to. Or are we? And if so, how?
When I was really young, the only thing I knew about my feelings was that they could be hurt by what other people said. I can still very vividly recall specific situations in which my feelings were hurt. I can tell you where I was, what I was wearing, who was involved, and what was said. I’m sure the days I went home crying were hard for my parents as no parent likes to see their child with hurt feelings. On the other hand, having my feelings hurt and learning to deal with it was just a part of life. I believe those situations were growing tools for me and somehow, I learned how to manage those situations and become a successful adult. I still get my feelings hurt from time to time, but I’ve learned how to move on pretty quickly using a well-known strategy called retail therapy (don’t judge).
Now as a mom, I’m the one dealing with the little person coming home with the big feelings, and I find myself so torn on how to handle it.
It seems like his feelings are way bigger than anything I ever felt at his age. I’ll admit that a part of me wants to tell him to suck it up and deal with it because I don’t want him growing up “soft,” but his feelings are SO BIG, and he expresses them in SUCH A BIG WAY that I don’t think that strategy is a healthy response. In our quest to help him, we’ve begun a journey of our own with him. I share this cautiously as I am well aware of the stigmas regarding mental health, but if this helps even one momma who is struggling with the big feelings in her little person, then my vulnerability was worth it.
Here are a few ways our inexperienced family is handling our little person’s big feelings this year:
- Reassure your child that feelings are ok. It’s ok to be sad. It’s ok to be angry. It’s ok to be so mad you can’t see straight. Validate the actual feeling because trying to act like these feelings don’t exist or that he’s a bad kid for feeling them is not healthy. It is absolutely ok to feel lonely, scared, excited, nervous, etc.
- Talk, talk, and when you feel tired of talking, you probably need to talk some more. I’ll be honest in that sometimes my child doesn’t always want to talk and that KILLS ME. I’ve learned to respect it in the moment and let him know that I’m ready to talk when he is. Talking through hard situations and hurt feelings can help you get a better picture of what your child is feeling and what may be causing those feelings.
- Therapy from a professional is not something to be ashamed of. Our son is in play therapy right now for his big feelings and I’m not a bit ashamed to say that. Asking for help from professionals is wise and should be commended. I don’t know everything. I’m not an expert in everything. I want what’s best for my child and sometimes what’s best is not me.
- Gathering a team to help is also a great way to help navigate difficult times. Teachers, guidance counselors, principals, school nurses, coaches, and anyone else who may have your child’s respect in some capacity, are all part of the team that it sometimes takes to raise a child. Yes, you are still the parent and have the final say, but having other people there who love your child and spend a lot of time with him as well can be very helpful when discussing strategies for success.
- Last but not least, girl, gather your tribe. I guarantee every momma friend you have has been through this is some way, shape, or form. In your moments of weakness, guilt, and sheer exhaustion, reach out to those tribe members and let them tell you that you’re doing a great job. I had a mom tell me that just a few days ago when I was down in the dumps with guilt, and it was exactly what I needed to hear to push through. We were never meant to parent alone, so don’t try to.
Did you get some big feelings just reading this? I sure had some big feelings while writing it and it made me all the more determined to be present for my little person and to keep fighting the good fight in trying to help him manage his feelings.