You have had a rough day with back to back zoom meetings and now it is dinner time and little Jimmy is refusing to eat his vegetables and you want to scream. Your partner asks if you are alright you say just smile tightly and say ‘I am fine’. Ever done that? You are fooling no one, not even little Jimmy!
Have you heard of bubble wrap parenting? This is when the children are practically protected from everything that is deemed ‘negative’, particularly when it comes to emotions. Don’t get me wrong, I am not talking about subjecting children to emotional abuse, but they also need to know that emotions both positive and negative are a part of a life and learning how to manage them constructively will make them more assured of themselves.
The two main ways in which parents stifle their emotions when it comes to children is:
- Protecting them from Failure and disappointment
This is exhausting and not sustainable. Some parents are petrified to allow their kids to feel failure. They see it as failure on their part if their kids are not being handed participation medals, thereby making them feel like winners in every competition. While it’s important to let them know they’re special this isn’t going to give their character a boost. It’s a false pretense that they wrap into a belief that they are being good parents because they keep them happy.
Life as it unfolds, offers opportunities for children to learn lessons, and we can’t take away this gift from them. Resilience, strength of character, and faith in themselves are born through the experience of failure, pain, and disappointment. Let them work hard in order to gain achievements. Allow them to be brave in taking risks, to outright fail, and rise from it. Authentic triumph builds tougher adults. That is how they build resilience and self-assurance.
You don’t have to play the hero all the time. Sometimes, you just need to be a coach, don’t intervene or do things for them, but rather, guide them through overcoming hardships, accepting failure and processing pain or disappointment.
- Many parents worry that showing their negative emotions in front of their children is wrong
When it comes to emotional displays in front of children, we have a tendency to suppress negative emotions, such as anger, fear, sadness, or disappointment.
However, these young minds are keen observers. They can pick up on your distress despite your efforts to hide it. They see you’re trying to keep your feelings from them, they end up feeling stressed, alienated, and processing their emotions alone. In some instances, children even end up thinking it’s their fault. What you want to create is a safe environment where emotions are brought up, discussed and processed. Processing emotions is the final part of the stress response cycle so when it is suppressed it leads to stress build up.
Scientists even documented that suppressing negative emotions around children not just increases your blood pressure but also stresses them out.
In the famous “still face” experiments, unresponsive mothers tended to make infants uncomfortable, wary, and strive to get their parent’s attention by whining. Sharing your emotions, positive or negative keeps the sense of connection.
The truth is we should “be real” with our children, they will benefit from watching our struggles and how we face negative emotions. The issue is that people haven’t learnt how to positively process their emotions and this is what makes them feel they have to suppress them.
Allow yourself to be human in front of your children. The transparent environment will prepare them for a rainbow of emotions, so they will understand the normalcy in having all these different negative feelings. What’s crucial is that you also show the positive ways to cope. This will prepare them in their own battles, they will learn to overcome anxiety, and other crippling emotional issues. Allowing them to face the realness of these negative emotions, helps in equipping them to be better adults prepared for the real world.
So, ask yourself today, are you protecting your kids from reality or preparing them for life?