Last week, I told you about the newest research on attachment, and how you can help your child develop a secure attachment with you just by “showing up” for them on a consistent basis. If you missed that email, you can read it on the blog HERE.
But what if showing up and being emotionally present for them is difficult for you a lot of the time?
What if you struggle to tolerate their big emotions, let alone be present and available as they are experiencing them?
I get it! As do so many others. Here is what I have been hearing from other parents and caregivers:
When your kids have big emotions, it triggers your own emotional response. That response can feel overwhelming or stressful, and your natural response is to want to shut them down so you don’t have to experience the discomfort.
But, shutting them down goes against what you ultimately want to do, which is to allow them to express themselves in a safe place.
I hear you, and I can relate!
The reality is this- if you haven’t learned how to tolerate your own uncomfortable emotions, it will be very difficult for you to show up for your child when they are expressing theirs.
Which is why I wanted to talk to you about the power of showing up for yourself, and learning to get comfortable with the uncomfortable. In other words, I want you to understand the emotional transformation that can happen when you practice the Four S’s on yourself.
SEE your internal world and acknowledge the struggle,
provide a SAFE place for you to experience the struggle (by not pushing the feelings away or judging yourself for experiencing them),
SOOTHE yourself by giving yourself permission to take care of yourself (whether that be taking deep breaths in the moment, or hiring help so you can have time to refill your cup),
you create a SECURE space where you accepted for who you are (big, uncomfortable emotions and all!)
And, the better you get at offering unconditional acceptance to yourself, the better you get at doing the same for your kids.
Here is what the transformational process looked like for me:
When my kids were toddlers I was really stuck in the yell/shame/guilt cycle. It felt like, no matter how many times I promised myself that I wouldn’t yell again, I inevitably did.
There was one day when I was struggling to get through the day, and it wasn’t even 10am. The kids were upstairs and I could hear them start to fight. Then, the screaming got louder, and the crying started.
Dealing with their fighting was more than I could handle in that moment, and I felt the anger rising.
I started my enraged trek up the stairs, and was on my way to shut down the yelling and screaming with my own yelling and screaming (I am completely aware of the irony of this now, but it felt so reasonable at the time!).
But, halfway up the stairs, I felt this strong urge to just stop.
I wanted to keep going- I wanted to release my anger and get them to stop fighting. But I was frozen.
The thought that kept going through my head as I stood there, halfway up the stairs was, “Is this the mom you want to be”.
That was it.
That was enough to stop my tirade and make me head back down the stairs. I’ll be honest- it wasn’t an easy, peaceful stroll back down the stairs. It was more of a dragging-myself-down-to-the-bottom-so-that-it-would-be-that-much-harder-to-turn-around-and-follow-through-with-my-original-intent kind of stroll.
But, I did it. As I lay on the floor, trying to gather myself, I remember saying to myself, “You’re going to be okay. You can do this. You are a good mama, you just need a break.” I stayed there for a solid five minutes just breathing and waiting for the discomfort from those big emotions to fade.
That was the first time I remember “showing up” for myself (read more about showing up with the 4 S’s with kids here). I offered myself compassion by acknowledging the struggle. I provided a safe space to experience the really big feelings without judging myself for having them. And, I soothed myself by giving myself time to just lay there until the wave of emotion subsided.
That was a significant moment in my parenting journey, because it was the first time I was able to stop myself from engaging in that yelling/shame/guilt cycle.
There have been times I have lost it and yelled at my kids since then, but the frequency continues to decrease to the point that I can’t actually recall the last time I yelled.
All because I learned to show up for myself.
I learned to respond to myself in the same way I want to respond to my kids. As a result, I can handle their big emotions without becoming overwhelmed by my own.
So, how about you?
How do you show up for yourself when your emotions threaten to overwhelm you?
If this is still a struggle for you, I encourage you to practice taking care of your own emotions first, before trying to interact with your child when they are dysregulated. You will be much more effective at helping them regulate themselves if you are regulated first.
I get it that it is not always possible to do this. Sometimes, there is a safety risk, or you need to remove the child from a situation.
But, when there are those times where you can walk away for just a minute, give it a try.
- Turn away
- Take a breath
- Acknowledge, and SEE the difficulty of the situation. (“This is really hard and I really want to lose it right now!”)
- Offer yourself a SAFE space by allowing your feelings without judging them. (“I know you are struggling. It’s okay to feel this way.”)
- SOOTHE yourself by giving yourself a few minutes to let your emotions settle. (“This feels like an emergency, but it isn’t. You can take a minute to breathe and calm your emotions.”)
- Each time you do it, you will feel a little more SECURE, and the process will become a little more natural
Taking the time to learn to show up for yourself will allow you to show up for your kids in the way you want to, and in the way they need you to.
And, perhaps even more importantly, you will be teaching them, by example, how to show up for themselves with kindness and compassion when their own emotions feel overwhelming.
It’s definitely a win-win…