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Raising Emotionally Strong Children

The last thing any parent wants is to raise a “messed up” kid. Unfortunately, children don’t come with instruction manuals and most of us are parenting from our own messy, busy lives. We take the stuff we think our parents did that worked, pour in a little magazine article guidance, and maybe even adopt a strategy we saw some other parent using in the waiting room at the pediatrician’s office. Then we have to wait years to see if we “did it right.” Sure, we can get a sense of their manners along the way, but we know that they’ll probably make mistakes—like most of us did. The ultimate judgment of parenting comes down to how they’ll make it through the tough times. It’s a perpetual wait to find out if our kids will make friends, do well in school, graduate, go to college, get a good job, find someone to share life with, raise kids of their own, keep their relationship going … and suddenly, we are old ourselves, having become mostly exhausted from riding along on our children’s roller coasters through life.

It’s easy to be happy when they’re successful. It’s also easy to be unhappy when they fail to act or live as we might hope. It’s easy to take their personal success or failure as a reflection of the job we did as a mom or dad. And so parents wonder: “Am I doing this right?” The best thing a parent can do along the way is teach their children how to properly deal with emotions. It’s a great human skill to learn how to be happy but also how to handle the things in life that will undoubtedly come along and make us angry or sad.

“When a child is 3 years old and a balloon gets out of their grip and flies away, they will be sad,” explains Beverly Craddock, master hypnotist at Hawaii Hypnosis Center. “If a parent tells the child to ‘stop crying,’ like there is an on-off switch for emotion, it can leave a child feeling that there is something wrong inside of them that they haven’t figured out.”

In so many scenarios, parents are teaching their children to suppress their emotions—to limit or block them. Over time, a child will develop a belief that there are “bad emotions” and “good emotions.” Things like sadness and anger become suppressed, and anything short of total happiness, which is totally unrealistic, is an emotional disappointment. Children will build their drive and energy around seeking out external things that bring them feelings of happiness or achievement.

“If we lose touch with the purpose of unpleasant emotions, we are likely to find them bubbling up in other areas of our lives,” Beverly says. “People who aren’t able to deal with sadness may experience anxiety, panic attacks, insecurity, relationship difficulties, or even depression. We help many clients like this at Hawaii Hypnosis Center undo this damage that shows up later in life.”

Beverly adds that parents often see their own children entering into the parents’ cycle of anger, sadness or anxiousness. “To break that cycle, parents are coming in to get help with processing their own emotions in order to be a better parent. Children are very intuitive, and they learn from watching you. One of the biggest legacies you can leave your children is to stop those family cycles repeating generation after generation.”

If we fast forward 25 years into the future, too often we find the emotionally suppressed child becoming a person unable to properly balance the natural emotions of life. The child may find him/herself in a boring job, an unhappy marriage, and feeling very neutral and unmotivated. The child begins to feel that he/she has no passion or purpose. Too often this leads to the child going to the doctor, where the child is told that he/she needs a pill—a pill that will only help the child care less about that purposeless, emotionally empty life.

So, what’s a parent to do? No parent wants that life for his/her child. Quite the opposite, we want our children to be secure with a desire to make a difference. Beverly recommends that we let our children understand their own emotions. “The lost balloon is an opportunity to let the child explore the feeling of sadness. Instead of telling them to stop being sad, let them know that it’s okay to experience sadness. Help them get over the lost balloon. Help them understand that things come and go from our lives. Help them talk about why they liked the balloon and why the loss is sad. By talking about and working through the emotions they experience as a child, they’ll be more emotionally balanced as teens and adults.”

Emotions can propel a person—inspire a person. They can definitely communicate what a person should or should not be doing. They can also help a child learn who they really are on the inside.

Parents are often best served by working on their own issues so they model emotional mastery for their children. The end result can be children that are confident and more successful. Beverly says children that are emotionally competent find most everything else in life—school, relationships and careers—much easier to navigate. “When we understand that sadness and anger serve a purpose, we’re able to deal with them more quickly and we spend more time being happy and confident.”

Randy Hampton is a writer, social scientist, hypnotist and blogger living in Honolulu

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