Feelings are what we have in common

April 9, 2021

Have you ever felt frustrated that someone isn’t listening to you when you speak?

Have you been so stressed out by your to-do’s that you find it difficult to even get started?

Have you forgotten something so ‘simple’ that you felt irritated with yourself, and embarrassed when someone else points it out?

If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, you’re not alone. In fact, these feelings are not only common among other busy Mummies and Daddies...

… Your kids actually share in these exact emotions too!

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In the flurry of dealing with your own feelings and trying to manage your children’s behaviour, it’s easy for parents to forget that kids have feelings too. No matter how old we are, our feelings are what we have in common with one another. In today’s blog post, we’re here to debunk 3 common misconceptions that parents have when it comes to their kids’ feelings.

Misconception 1: Kids are young. They have fewer emotions and they experience them one at a time.

This misconception could make you say: “Do you like soccer or dislike it? I thought you were happy last week, and this week you’re sad? Which is it?”

Debunking it makes you say: “It sounds like you have mixed feelings about soccer – last week you felt proud, but this week was disappointing. At the same time, you’re also feeling determined to improve next week. Does that sound right?”  

Unlike children’s books (with exaggerated storylines) or children’s meals in restaurants (with less spice, less variety, and smaller portions), there isn’t a watered down or simplified ‘kids’ version’ when it comes to feelings.

On the contrary, children also experience wide-ranging, complex, and sometimes mixed feelings – just like adults.

The tricky thing is: our emotional vocabulary tends to develop a few paces behind our emotional experiences. In other words, your child may experience jealousy, awkwardness, or appreciation before they have the right words to express it.

You may have heard your child use blanket statements like “I don’t like it”, “It’s so annoying”, or “It’s nice”. This is not because their feelings lack complexity or depth – it might be that they’re still learning the right way to articulate them.

You can help your child by helping to identify or suggest different emotions that they may be feeling! Try using statements like, “It sounds like you might feel…”

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Misconception 2: If their problems are trivial, their feelings are too

This misconception could make you think: “Sure, he’s upset that he couldn’t watch TV, but he has to get over it – it’s just one episode.”

Debunking it would help you say: “He’s sad that he missed an episode. This TV show is a big deal to him, he was looking forward to it all day.”

It’s true that yours and your kids’ priorities, concerns, wants, and needs exist on different levels. That’s okay! Kids are kids – they’re supposed to play, experiment, and make mistakes.

Just because your child’s feelings are related to seemingly short-sighted or selfish interests, doesn’t mean that their emotions are less real, valid, or important. This brings us to our third myth…

Misconception 3: But whose feelings are more important?

This misconception could make you think: “He’s thinking about a TV show, but I’m thinking about his future! His end-of-year exams! His self-discipline!”

Debunking it would help you say: “He’s sad that he missed an episode. At the same time, I’m stressed about his progress in school. Seems like we’re both not feeling great.”

Emotions aren’t a competition! While it’s true that you and your child may have differing sentiments on a particular issue, it doesn’t mean that one of you is right and the other is wrong.

Acknowledging and validating your child’s feelings is not admitting defeat or being permissive. Rather, it builds up their emotional vocabulary so that they can identify and express their feelings healthily.

It is also a crucial step in being able to engage in conversation and find workable solutions with them! A child who feels rejected or misunderstood is less likely to cooperate and open up to you.

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When we feel overwhelmed by our own feelings, it’s easy to forget to listen and empathise with those around us. If you caught yourself acting on any of these misconceptions, it’s okay! Today is a great day to exchange 1 word of judgement into 1 word of encouragement for your child.