The ABC’s Of Handling Non-Happy Feelings
Acknowledge The feeling:
“You feel like I don’t love you”
Believe: Spend two moments empathizing
“Awe, no matter how much I tell you I love you, when I’m nursing Zack you feel like I don’t love you. That must feel so horrible.”
Cope: How do we make it better
“What can we do so you feel loved when I’m feeding Zach? (if child has no ideas, suggest a few, have your child pick one or two) Next time when feeding Zach ask how it’s working and how your child is feeling. Encourage expression of feelings”
Try to respond to the MEANING behind the words.
CHILD – “I don’t have to put away my toys because you love Zack more.”
PARENT – “l know your feeling sad and left out and I’m helping you with that, but you know the rule, you may not go onto another activity until your toys are put away.”
Helping your child with non-happy feelings does not mean giving into all their demands.
Children have both happy and non- happy feelings. When a child is expressing happy feelings it’s easy to parent. When a child is expressing non- happy feelings parenting seems much harder.
Non-happy feelings are an expression of what isn’t going well and what your child needs help with. If non-happy feelings aren’t truly paid attention to they can become bigger and bigger until they can’t be ignored any longer.
These feelings may turn into:
- TEMPER TANTRUMS
- ACTING-OUT BEHAVIOR
- EXCESSIVE CRYING
- SLEEPING PROBLEMS
- EXTREME WORRIES/FEARS
- BOWEL PROBLEMS
- STOMACH ACHES
Children have strong feelings and powerful impulses.
- They experience anger, frustration, hurt disappointment fear, jealousy etc. all the emotions adults feel.
- But children are not equipped to express their feelings in a mature, thoughtful manner.
- Children often blurt out their feelings in extremes.
“I’m really upset that I can’t stay and play more because I’m having such a good time.”
“You never let me play!”
These responses often scare or anger us. We want to make things better, so we want the bad feeling to go away immediately.
We often believe that logic can make non- happy feelings go away. Unfortunately, it’s not so easy.
In trying to rid the feeling, we often tell our children that what they are feeling “isn’t true or “isn’t so bad.” Denying or minimizing the feeling often gets children more upset causing the initial feeling to become worse.
This can begin a cycle of acting out behavior or increased internal anxiety.