Big emotions – big feelings – big responses in a time of stress such as these weeks have brought can be scary. As families navigate all that Covid 19 has brought us, our bodies, minds, and spirits can become weighed down and when the “release valve” is opened, it can be frightening. Developing an understanding of and the expression of emotions can help us “coach” our children through them and can provide insight into our own emotional life.
The Bible has much to say about emotions.
A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. Proverbs 15:1
Anxiety in the heart of a man weighs it down. Proverbs 12:25
Do not let the sun go down on your anger. Ephesians 4:26
As an “emotional coach” how do we help our children manage their emotions?
- Listen empathetically and validate the child’s feelings. Stop and listen. While the emotion comes from an incident or a series of incidents that have bubbled up, the conversation is more than data collection – more than what happened?
- Label the emotion. Give the child words such as frustrated, annoyed, angry, disappointed, hurt. Labeling emotions has a calming effect on the brain.
- Telling children how they ought to feel during an emotional event is not helpful. For example, telling a child they should be thankful they have Legos when a Lego creation has just been destroyed does not help the child deal with the emotion. Modeling and teaching thankfulness are critical but not in the heat of the moment.
- During altercations, two people can have very different feelings about the same event.
- Set limits and help your child find solutions. Use stories of Christ’s life, Bible heroes, and your own stories of growing up. Solutions are found together when possible.
- Evaluate solutions. This is key: Does it honor God? Is it safe? Is it practical? Try the plan and then check back with your child to see if it is working.
- Pray with your child about specific events in your household. Bring everything to Christ. Thanking God for Legos and then asking him to help us share Legos is an example of a specific prayer and will help your child see that all aspects of our lives are important to God.
We are undone! We pray your child’s heart will be softened to the gospel and to your instruction. Give yourself grace. No one has ever parented perfectly. Our goal in these notes is to give you ways to nurture your children in our messy lives. It is God that changes the heart. So we pray, pray, pray. We send our love to you all.