All Feelings are OK
Now, I realize that the notion that “All Feelings are OK” may seem a bit cheesy, but hear me out! As a therapist, I often see two main parental strategies show up in my office related to dealing with emotions. Either 1, parents communicate that certain emotions aren’t ok, such as anger, shutting that emotion down. Or 2, parents try to rescue their child from certain emotions, such as sadness, by distracting them and or offering motivators to help them feel “happy.” Though both of these strategies generally come from a good place, neither equips a child with the tools they need to successfully navigate challenging emotions throughout life.
And, I get it! Generally speaking, we don’t love sitting around in uncomfortable emotions such as anger, guilt or sadness. How much less so do we want that for our children? But, the reality is that these emotions are a part of life, and though we don’t generally want to marinate in them, we do want to have the capacity to tolerate them and move through them.
In the therapy space, I often have conversations with parents focused on normalizing these emotions. It’s important to recognize, both for ourselves and for our children, that feelings come and go. Just because we feel one way right now, doesn’t mean we’ll feel that way forever. We want to normalize our child’s experience, letting them know it’s ok to feel that way. We want to communicate empathy and understanding, allowing for a sense of being known, seen and connected. But we always want to express a sense of confidence in our child’s capacity to handle those big feelings and still be ok. In short, we want to communicate that we see them, we’re with them, and we have confidence in them!
It’s important to note that just because all feelings are ok, how we handle all feelings is not necessarily ok. For example, feeling mad is an acceptable emotion, hitting your sibling or throwing things as a result of those feelings, not ok. We’ll want to be available to support our children in brainstorming and problem solving healthy outlets and coping skills for managing big emotions. For more ideas on healthy and effective coping strategies, feel free to reach out! Our providers are here to walk alongside and support you and yours with getting back on track.
Mary Kuepper is a specialized child and family counselor at KPMH. She has been working directly with kids and families across the Kenai Peninsula for many years. Her unique approach to child and family counseling has helped many local families find the results and relief they are looking for.