Here is the first in an occasional series of guest blogs by one of our Professional Drive Counseling therapists. This blog is written by Dr. Patricia Brunner. You can find her website at www.patriciabrunnerphd.com.
One of the biggest challenges facing parents today is how to help our children develop the ability to deal with their feelings, especially when they are uncomfortable or unpleasant. As a parenting community, in an effort to help our children be safe and strive to raise their self-esteem, we have missed opportunities to help them learn to deal with the bad stuff – disappointment, stress, sadness, worry and just when plain old bad things happen.
Everyone wants their children to be happy and safe. But when we protect their self-esteem too much, we rob them of important opportunities to practice. And when adolescence hits, typically a time of overwhelming feelings, we end up with teens who are ill-prepared to navigate the emotional typhoon they live in. And while no one would wish a traumatic experience on a child, we do see that those who experienced loss or trauma (and have adult support to learn how to cope) typically become more mature socially and emotionally.
So how do we help our children become more emotionally competent about the bad stuff? First, we model a healthy way to deal with the bad stuff that happens in our own lives. And secondly, we don’t rescue them from being cut from a team, getting a bad grade, not being invited to a party, or being “unfriended.” Instead, we help them identify their feelings, feel the feelings, and move through the feelings with actions toward better coping next time. As parents, let’s not focus on helping them feel good. Let’s help them be good at feeling.