My dog’s loud frantic barking followed by my son’s whaling sent me running into the living room.
I grabbed my son to comfort him as I backed away from the sliding glass doors of our vacation rental in disbelief!
A squirrel was scaling the screen from the top down. It was a freaky sight—- no wonder Chulo was losing his dog mind!
I had never seen such a thing!
When the squirrel attack happened again, I saw my well-intentioned husband soothing our son.
He was holding James and stroking his head as he said,
“There, there, you are okay. Calm down Sweet James; you are okay.”
While this seems comforting, in doing research on emotional development for my Emotional Mastery Course, I learned this is one of the ways we are taught to be unaccepting of our emotions.
This is how we learn our feelings aren’t okay.
When I took James and tried a different approach, I was surprised at how quickly he calmed as I said…
“Awe Sweetheart, that was really scary. The dog barking was really scary. I’m sorry Chulo was barking so loudly. He was just trying to protect us from the squirrel, and while he was loud, he chased the squirrel away. He was barking to chase the squirrel away.”
Since James is only two years old, I never know how much he actually understands.
It’s fascinating how much they/we absorb at that age.
Acknowledging one’s feelings and fears is the first step to emotional health.
Later that evening during dinner, James seemed concerned and kept turning around in his high chair to look at the sliding glass window, and I realized he might be checking for the squirrel!
When I acknowledged his fear from earlier he relaxed and finished his dinner without distraction…
“Are you looking for the squirrel? I know that was really scary. The squirrel is outside though and we are keeping the door closed so he won’t come in. And Chulo is here to chase him away. So you are safe here.”
This could have potentially been the beginning of a squirrel phobia.
This could have potentially been the beginning of teaching our son his feelings don’t matter.
This could have been the well-meaning, unknowing repetition of unhealthy parenting.
I know I have caught myself many times in the midst of saying, “Good boy!” and corrected it to, “Good job!”
Our children are good no matter what they do or don’t do.
They can be praised for doing a good job, but associating doing something with being “a good boy or girl” or “a bad boy or girl” teaches self-worth is based on one’s actions, not who they are.
Our children are lovable no matter what they do or don’t do.
You are good and lovable no matter what you do or don’t do.
And your feelings matter.
Making a healthy choice for yourself starts by being in touch with what you are feeling.
So, I invite you to pay more attention to how you feel each day.
Acknowledge when you feel anxious, fearful, startled, or upset.
Don’t just “Keep Calm And Carry On.”
STOP and allow yourself to feel your feelings. Take deep breaths as you rub your temples and acknowledge what you are feeling. Name the emotion.
LOOK at what is happening to see if you can link a particular event with how you are feeling.
Then place one hand on your forehead and the other on your heart and…
LISTEN for its wisdom.
What do you need to feel better or to support yourself right now?
If you are a mom and your child is upset, acknowledge their feelings and talk them through those feelings.
You can use the same system…
STOP and acknowledge their feelings as I did with James.
LOOK at what may have happened to cause their upset. Discuss it with them, noting their reactions.
LISTEN to your own heart’s wisdom and love them the way you wanted to be loved.
You/we can be the parents we needed as kids to our children and to ourselves.
Cheers to loving yourself the way you wanted to be loved,