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Managing Big Emotions

Background? Emotions are involuntary, neurological responses that happen in your body. Just about every bodily system reacts to the chemical and electrical cascade activated by them. And they

happen all day long! I loved the way Emily Nagoski (Burn Out) put it, “People really want to believe that we are cognitive, rational beings who on occasion feel, when the truth is – and we know this now from tremendous research and PET imaging – we are emotional beings who on occasion think.” If I were at a speaking engagement, I’d take a moment to repeat that: We are emotional beings who occasionally think. How to Address It? We have the opportunity to teach our children to be informed, not overwhelmed, by emotions. “Name It to Tame It” is a phrase coined by psychiatrist Dr. Daniel Siegel. Once you notice a strong emotional reaction, you can help your child describe it or name it. This nurturing looks different for a young child or a teen but, for both, it is calming because: a) the child understands that his experience is valid and valued, and b) naming an emotion is scientifically proven to reduce its intensity. And reducing the intensity is what allows them to access their prefrontal cortex: our rational, creative, problem solving brain. Your Script in Action Instead of: "It's not that scary, you'll be fine." Try: "Wow, that is scary. You don't like the idea of jumping into the pool" Instead of: "You're OK, don't worry." Try: “Sounds like you are really worried about the test today. Thanks for sharing.” Instead of: "Don't cry, we'll see them again." Try: “It’s so hard to say good-bye. It’s normal to miss people; I’ll miss her too." GOT A MINUTE? Look for an opportunity where you child is emotional: angry, frustrated, happy, sad. Instead of getting caught up in their emotional waves, simply note the emotion and give them space or, with little children, you might need to help them soothe. You can do it! If you want support and expertise to nuture your children’s emotional health, give me a call today.


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