We often aim to help our kids feel happy, and there’s nothing wrong with wanting that. However, if we want to raise heart-centered empathic human beings, we need to aim for helping them FEEL—all feelings—happiness, sadness, anger, grief, all of them—not only happiness.
The ability to feel is what makes children and all humans capable of empathy, self-love and having a solid healthy self-esteem. It’s critical to helping them follow their own intuitive knowing rather than “the crowd”.
And here’s a key point:
We often think happy and sad are opposite ends of a continuum or spectrum, and we prefer “happy” over “sad”. Therefore, if our kids are sad or upset, we say and do things to try to get them back to feeling happy.
But in actual fact, we need to be looking at a spectrum that has the “ability to feel” at one end, and the “inability to feel” at the other end. And when we’re at the end of the spectrum where we’re able to feel—we feel both the depths of joy and grief. We feel everything, and on some days, we may feel the feelings intensely. And when we’re at the other end, we can’t feel. We’re possibly dissociated or numb or disconnected as a way of coping.
I know this from experience. I was quite disconnected from many of my feelings and body sensations in early adulthood, and as a result I struggled in some of my relationships and was super indecisive. I would turn decisions over and over in my head, unable to access the feeling of what was right for me.
For kids to make decisions from their heart and gut instincts, they need to be able to feel their body sensations, but this ability gets distorted or limited when a person has experienced trauma.
We often think of trauma as violence, and it can be, but more often or it’s simply a result from having a parent who had difficulty attuning to the child.
The ability to feel is our natural state of being, and it’s necessary for:
- Making heart-centered decisions that are aligned with our life (soul’s) purpose
- Making decisions in the moment based on your inner knowing
- Attuning to our children and other people
- Having healthy relationships – with friends, a partner and our children and family members
- Setting boundaries, and knowing where we end and “other” begins
If you catch yourself trying to cheer your child up prematurely, before they’ve had a chance to feel the feelings that are coming up for them, pause and check in with yourself to see if you’re feeling uncomfortable with their feelings. See if you can, instead, hold space for what they need to express.
It’s the ability to allow authentic expression of ALL emotions, and to be comfortable with that, that enables our kids to feel the real joy that comes from deep within, and isn’t reliant on temporary transient external situations or events.