Taking caring of a baby is physically exhausting. Young babies need almost-constant care, require rituals to get them to eat, stop crying or fall asleep and then there is the never-ending supply of dirty diapers and soiled clothes.
Now that Omar is seven years old, all that is a thing of the past so I thought it’s smooth sailing from here. But now he’s entering the stage of life where’s he’s having to deal with all kinds of emotions, including all those that come with facing peer pressure and rejection.
When I found him in bed crying at bedtime last night and he didn’t have the words to express himself, I knew right then that we are entering a new phase of parental challenges – and this one is mentally exhausting.
Some children, like Omar, are sometimes unable to express their emotions verbally because they are shy, are too emotionally overwhelmed to use the needed vocabulary or are afraid of expressing their feelings. So here’s what I'm working on:
Giving permission to feel and express emotions: It’s very tempting when my child expresses a negative feeling to say “You shouldn’t feel that way” or to downplay it and attempt to shift focus to a positive feeling. It’s important though for children to feel they are safe in feeling and expressing negative emotions.
Using art: I encourage my child to draw, colour or sculpt his feelings.
Encouraging writing: The simple act of writing down feelings is a powerful way to express emotions. Older children may even use poetry, song writing or short-stories.
Being a role model: This is something I’m really working on as it’s quite tempting in the hectic pace of life and through the struggles of parenting to lose my temper and lash out. I often take brief “time outs” throughout the day just to breathe and remind myself that whatever I’m dealing with in that moment is not worth taking it out on the kids (or anyone else). Practicing responsible emotional management is a fundamental part of teaching children the life-long skill of handling emotions.
Different phases in our lives bring different challenges. Part of my role as a parent is to help equip my children with life skills, like how to process and manage their emotions. Instead of drowning in the face of life’s difficulties, I want them to be able to ride the hurdles like a wave!