All Feelings are Valid

October 16, 2019

You just had a terrible day. Your colleague had to take urgent leave so you had no choice but to take on their workload. Your project manager isn’t giving you a clear idea of what they want, yet they keep rejecting your pitches. To top it all off, the waiter at lunch got your order wrong, so you didn’t get to eat the noodles you’d been looking forward to all week.

When you finally make it to the end of the day, you tell your friends about everything over dinner. You’re expecting some sympathy and comfort from them, but instead…

“Don’t be mean, your colleague had an emergency. I’m sure they appreciate it that you’re taking over their tasks. Think of this as a great learning experience!”

“Get used to it — bosses are all like that. They expect you to read their minds. Welcome to the real world…”

“It’s just one bowl of noodles, I don’t see why it’s such a big deal. Just go back again tomorrow!”

Imagine how you would feel if your friends reacted this way. What would you say to them? Maybe you’d call them lousy friends, storm out of the room, or resolve never to tell them about your problems again, since it seems like they’re incapable of understanding you.

Why is it so infuriating when someone doesn’t respond to your feelings in the way you wanted? It’s because your feelings have been denied! You needed them to recognise how badly your day went, but instead their reactions implied, “You are wrong for feeling upset. You should feel differently.”

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Children are met with these exact responses from their parents all the time.

A girl gets into a fight with her sister over a toy and her mother says, “Don’t be mean, your sister just wants a turn. I’m sure she appreciates that you’re letting her use the toy first.” A boy’s artwork gets mistakenly thrown away and he is crying uncontrollably, so his father says, “It’s just one painting, I don’t see why it’s such a big deal. Just paint another one tomorrow.”

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One of Bramble’s central beliefs is that all feelings are valid; no feelings are wrong, abnormal, or shameful.

All feelings are valid.

If you feel a certain way, you are allowed to feel that way. Even if it doesn’t “make sense”, even if your feelings make you less productive, even if you hate feeling a certain way, all feelings are valid.

Humans are emotional beings, and emotions are one way that we learn more about our own wants and needs (we’ll discuss this more in a future blog post!). When we experience different situations, our feelings come up whether we like it or not – what we choose to do with those feelings begins with recognising and accepting how we feel. For kids who are still learning how to deal with their feelings, it’s their parents’ job to help them recognise and accept their feelings first.

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When you stop labelling your children’s feelings as good or bad, reasonable or ridiculous, celebrated or shameful, you give your children the permission to explore and understand their emotions instead of avoiding or brushing them aside. Kids look to their parents for guidance on how they should manage their feelings, which is why language matters!

Statements that deny your child’s feelings

  1. There’s no use/no point feeling sad now.
  2. There's no reason for you to be sad.
  3. It's not worth being sad over this.
  4. You're sad about this? This is nothing – wait till you experience the real world.
  5. Cheer up, be positive, stop focusing on the negative!

Statements that accept your child’s feelings as valid

  1. It seems like you feel upset. It’s okay to feel upset.
  2. You are disappointed. You wish you weren’t so disappointed, but I think it’s okay that you feel that way.
  3. Sounds like you were embarrassed by what happened. That’s such a difficult situation to be in!

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This week, when your children tell you a story about their day, try using these statements to affirm their feelings. It may feel a little unnatural at first, and your child might be surprised to hear these words, but it goes a long way in helping them grow into their emotions.

Now, you might be thinking: this all sounds nice, but what if I get too lenient and my kids become disobedient because “nothing is off limits”? Aren’t I supposed to teach my kids resilience in the face of struggles?  Stay tuned to our blog next week to read about how we can make all feelings valid without making all behaviours permissible.