She collapses in my arms, a mess of tears and pent up emotion.
I hug her hard and let her know she is okay. As she settles and slows her breathing, I ask her how she is feeling. She looks at me with wet cheeks and glistening eyes, “I’m not sure Mum, can we get the chart from the fridge?”
I am the mother of two girls, which means our household experiences a lot of emotions. There is joy and there is sadness, there is frustration and there is disappointment. We have made it very explicit in our family how much we value emotions. For being able to feel something, to know what you’re feeling and to name, it is an important skill in life.
Author and vulnerability researcher Brené Brown tells us, “When we are in pain and fear, anger and hate are our go-to emotions.”
We understand this in our family. That anger, and harsh words are often due to another emotion under the surface. So, we have a chart on the fridge that helps our girls to dig below their anger and actually name the emotion that is fuelling it.
As a family we have sat down and articulated that no emotion is inherently good or bad, and that sharing emotions is okay.
One of our key statements of what it means to belong to our family is, “You have permission here to share how you’re feeling.”
So, we allow free expression of emotion, with the important caveat that “we don’t let our mood affect our manners.” In other words, it is okay to feel that emotion, but you still have to respect others in that. My girls know if they feel angry they have permission to express that so long as they don’t hurt others or themselves (both physically or verbally) in expressing that.
This has involved conscious modelling and naming of emotions from my husband and I, as parents, too.
We now talk about being disappointed, frustrated or worried rather than the easier blanket statement of “I’m feeling angry.” It means that we no longer respond to all anger with, “Go to your room”, but that at least once a week you will find me with a child snuggled up in my chair, holding the emotion chart in hand.
For as my daughter and I do the important work of digging down we might discover that what looked like anger is in fact worry about the test tomorrow.
As a family we have found that it is in naming the emotion and bringing it into the light that we can take steps to calm those nerves and equip ourselves for each day.
Jodie is a full time mother, part-time writer and sometime poet. As a third culture kid she lived in Europe and Asia for ten years. While now living happily in Perth with her husband and two daughters, the travel bug has never left her. She writes about the journey of life: the beautiful; the painful; the everyday; and the mundane. She has a heart for encouraging others wherever they are on their journey. On the days when she is not writing you will find her in her kitchen, usually licking the beaters from a chocolate cake.