Emotions can be tough to deal with. Fear, anger, grief, jealousy and insecurity are never pleasant or enjoyable. Even joy, love and happiness can pose a problem for some people because they feel too much too intensely.
“You will not be punished for your anger; you will be punished by your anger.” -Buddha
As adults, our emotions often control us and lead us into a reactionary pattern that can damage relationships and our own sense of self.
The same happens for our children as they experience their emotions. Learning early on in life to deal effectively with emotions is a wonderful skill that can be learned through the practice of mindfulness and meditation.
Before we become masters at dealing with emotions, we need to practice…and practice…and practice. This is best done when life is calm, emotions are manageable, and there is a quiet mental and physical place for reflection and relaxation.
Parenting is one of the most emotional jobs in the world.
To truly help our children deal with their emotions, we must be learning to deal with our own as well. Plop yourself down on some soft cushions as a family and work your way through
How to deal with difficult emotions
1. Think of a time when you felt a strong emotion
This can be any emotion that you remember as impacting you strongly. It may be when you lost your temper and yelled at someone. It may be when you were so sad that you couldn’t help but cry. It may be a situation that caused you great fear.
2. Identify where in your body you are feeling this emotion
Feeling where emotions live is great practice in awareness. Does your chest tighten, does your throat feel tense, are there butterflies in your stomach? Feel this, stay with it for as long as you can, allow the experience to linger. If it becomes too much, come back to your breath for a moment. Return again and remain with the emotional feeling a bit longer.
3. Reflect on how you usually act when you feel this type of emotion
Do you ignore your feelings for as long as you can and hope they will go away? Do you lash out and yell or cry or maybe throw something? Do you call someone a name and try to make them feel badly right along with you? We all handle our feelings in our own special way. Try to see your special way of reacting to strong feelings.
4. Think of a better way
Once you know how you always act when you are angry or scared, try to think of how you wish you would act. Do you wish you could give yourself a time out and find a quiet spot to breathe through the emotion? Do you wish you could think clearly and act in a calm way? What do you see as the very best reaction. This can be your plan for the next time you feel overwhelmed by a strong emotion.
5. End by taking some breaths and quieting your mind
Now that you have really looked at where you feel emotions, how you act, and how you want to act, take a rest. Settle your mind and take 10 or 20 or 300 breaths and feel your calm mind again, because all is well right now.
So how did that feel? Was it scary? Was it painful? Was it difficult?
It will get easier the more you practice. And slowly, slowly you will see change. The goal of being mindfully aware of our emotions is not to see emotions as the enemy or to try to get rid of them. The goal is to be aware of our emotions, to welcome and feel them, and then to react appropriately going forward.
The ups and downs, the highs and lows of life make this journey memorable, special and relevant. We simply don’t need to be carried off to an unhealthy place because our emotions are leading the way.
If you are new to mindfulness with children we recommend that you read our guide: How To Practice Mindfulness With Children – The Essential Guide
For more reading on this topic, here are a few books to explore:
Photo by David Marcu