How to help your children (and inner child) feel enough
Children want to know that their feelings are valid. Their job is to feel all their feelings and learn how to fully express themselves. The job for parents is to create a safe space to allow this to happen.
What parents often do when their child is upset is they try to make them feel better. They do this with all good intentions by saying things like “it’s not that bad, don’t cry, you can always try again next time.” What happens is that children then look at their parents who seem to never cry or get upset and think “gosh mom and dad handle things so well, there must be something wrong with me.” Children look to their parents to see what normal, they look to their parents to see what is right and wrong, they look to their parents to see how they should or shouldn’t do something, and this is because ultimately children just want belonging and acceptance.
Another way to approach the situation when your child feels upset or defeated is to acknowledge their feelings. For example, your child comes home from school feeling upset because they didn’t do well on a test. Naturally, we would want to tell them that it’s ok, they did their best, and that they can always do better next time. What happens in this moment is we brush off their feelings of disappointment, they feel defeated and perhaps even helpless because they thought they had done everything they could, and because they want to avoid pain, they may decide to not try again, or overachieve to avoid failure…
I get that we only mean to uplift our children when we give them these well-intended pep talks, however another way to approach this could be to say: “you’re feeling disappointed because you got a low mark on your test. I know how that feels, sometimes I don’t do as well as I had hoped. What do you need to help you get the results that you would like?” What we do there is
a) Acknowledge their feelings
b) Show them that we feel that too, giving them the connection that they need and the validation that they aren’t bad because of those feelings
c) Offer them support in a way that makes sense to them.
Dr. Becky Kennedy talks in depth about parenting and working with little one’s and their feelings. She has some fantastic views and approaches that enable parents to feel empowered while also enabling their children to be empowered. She grounds her work in “two truths” being that both parent and child can have their views and neither are wrong or right, better or worse. Definitely check out her podcast called Good Inside.
As the adult, you can quite literally take this approach with yourself when you have feelings come up.
- Acknowledge that you are feeling this way and consider the feeling, what is the feeling?
- Empathise with yourself in that you’re not the only person or first person to ever feel this way.
- Ask yourself what you need – and take the gentler approach here.
- If you hear someone else’s voice in your head, especially if what is being suggested seems harsh, consider whose voice that might be – parent, teacher, bully, etc. This awareness should already reroute the thought pattern.
- Then direct the thought to what you want and need instead.
I personally don’t have children but I work with parents and many adults and their inner child and so I take a keen interest in parenting to support both my healing and that of my clients.
If you’re wanting to connect with your inner child, connect with me for support.