Organize my feelings for me, please!
Wouldn’t it be nice if we could shield our kiddos from the heartaches and pains that life inevitably throws at them? I so wish this was possible. But you and I both know it’s not. In fact, our kids have already come to us with a set of emotional scars and bruises from the ruptures they’ve endured.
So, what is our role as parents? How do we help our kids navigate their storms? We need to practice skills that may come easier for some of us than they do for others. Skills like being with, organizing their feelings, attuning, and validating.
A few years ago, my husband and I had to share some sad news with my twin daughters who were 10 at the time. Their dear neighborhood friends, two sisters close to my daughter’s age would be moving to the other end of the city. This was a huge loss for our family. Every day in the summer these girls would be at each other’s houses playing together. They had lived across the street from us for 5 years. They were delightful sisters who encouraged creativity and exploration in my daughters.
After my daughters heard the news, they each had separate responses. One of my twins asked a few clarifying questions and then withdrew to her bedroom while the other twin had a long full-bodied cry. She allowed me to comfort her as I sought to offer consoling words about how difficult this must be, what wonderful friends they were, and how sorry I was. I stayed with her for 45 minutes until her tears stopped coming.
As my husband and I discussed the situation that evening we speculated that these kinds of situations can bring up old feelings of loss and separation that our kids have experienced earlier in life.
We did encourage our other twin to share her feelings and after some processing, she too was able to have a good cry.
As our children face challenges in life, they need our help organizing their feelings. We can help them give names to what they might be feeling. We can help them feel seen in these times. We can help them make sense of things.
If being with your child in difficult circumstances does not come naturally for you, I encourage you to keep showing up. The more you exercise this muscle, the easier it will get.