10 Ways to Help Children Face Negative Emotions and Find Happiness

Worry, doubt, fear, sadness and poor self esteem don’t belong in children. Adults either. But we expect children to be happy and playful and full of joy. How do they take on so much negativity at such a young age? Although it is assumed that traumatic experiences are the cause, more often than not, it is something much smaller that can cause a personality to wither with no one the wiser.

During a study of key life influences, I remembered one such account when I was five or six. The den in my family home had a bay window and I had been told not to climb on it. However it was very tempting. It was my very own dance stage! I don’t remember anything in my way. Perhaps I didn’t see it as an obstacle, but the Victorian lamp that probably had been passed down through the family, hit the floor. My distraught mother cried and cried. Why couldn’t I listen? What was the matter with me? How often scenes like this happen in family life. Frustrated parents lose it and yell, something they wish they could take back. But the child gets over it and life goes on. All is well. But is it? My little self perceived an unbelievable fact that day. Lamps and other things are much more important than me. It was my first encounter with not being worthy. I began practicing playing small. My mother always thought that I had a hard time adjusting to school and that was why I became more quiet and subdued. She would have been devastated to know that her reaction to a broken lamp had that kind of impact.   I discovered this about myself in my sixties and have pondered the unknown affects I may have inadvertently caused for my children and grandchildren. But the reality is that what took place took place in my brain.

The brain chooses how it will react to situations, and that reaction becomes an emotion. Each human being has a multitude of interactions and experiences some of which trigger negative emotions while others do not. Protecting children from experiences is not possible, nor healthy. If they don’t learn to deal with small things, they will have no skills for dealing with larger ones. Research has shown that over protective parenting leaves children vulnerable when they grow and leave home. They are used to their parents as their life shield. They feel exposed and worried. Rather than hovering, or feeling guilty for our own emotions, adults can teach kids how to handle situations that have triggered negative emotions of fear, self -loathing, sadness, feeling unworthy or unloved. People expect children to “get over it” when many adults do not have that capacity either. They hold grudges, blame, show anger, or are willing to let go of relationships rather than deal with the emotions, or “get over it” themselves.   happiness

So how do we help kids deal with negative emotions in their life and be happy?

  1. Appreciate having them in your life and teach them to love and value themselves.
  2. Acknowledge their feelings and give them an opportunity to talk often.
  3. Value their concerns and commend their efforts to deal with them.
  4. Assure them they are surrounded by God’s love and His protective angels; they are never alone.
  5. Teach them to communicate with God. Listening to the answers in their heart is just as important as talking.
  6.  Be grateful and practice daily gratitude with them.
  7. Guide with questions rather than tell them how to handle their emotions.
  8. Show them forgiveness and an ability to take responsibility for your own actions so they can model you. Children need to forgive themselves.
  9. Prove that joy can be found most anywhere (without medications, alcohol or drugs).
  10. Help them to choose happiness for what they have in the present.

All experiences in life offer choices. Kids need to learn that so they avoid feeling powerless. Imagine if you or I learned this as children!

Celebrations From Within the Heart

I love Father’s Day and Mother’s Day celebrations because it is a time we get together for a few hours over a nice meal and enjoy each other’s company.   Tradition in this country is for gifts and cards, too. (Well, come to think of it isn’t that our tradition for everything??) In many families I believe it is a time to remind children of all ages that it is someone’s special day and to be nice. Kids hear, “Don’t fight.” “Be nice.” “Say Happy Mother’s Day”, “Happy Birthday”, or whatever is celebrated. Some even get dressed up in their finest. There are many special celebrations!

I sit here wondering how these celebrations are different in families that practice living from their heart every day. I would love to see discussion on this page! My grandson is naturally a from- the- heart- kid. He enters the door and seeks both of us out for a hug and “I love you” before heading off to do something. He never leaves without a repeat. In between, he has his “Why can’t I…” “I want…”, “Why do I have to…????” , like many other kids, but he is respectful and caring every day. Celebrations are not necessary when every day is from the heart. The interesting thing is, those that live from their heart, look forward to celebrating others! They don’t resent it, it is a joy!

Each child has their own unique personality and reacts to living with the same upbringing in different ways. Some truly hold onto living from their heart more easily than others. Others become entrenched in serving themselves. This is one area where modeling doesn’t always work. (But don’t stop exhibiting through your words and actions how they should be!) Not all children learn to be loving from being treated lovingly. We cannot expect children to want to treat others the way they are treated because the truth is many receive the message that they are worthy to be treated that way. Reciprocation is not considered when it is they who are the deserving ones. Conundrum sometimes, isn’t it?

imagesDU8B6AI2Giving gratitude each day is a wonderful way for children to begin to learn to live from their heart. It can start with one thing, one general thing, one superficial thing, one selfish thing. And it doesn’t even matter if it is sincere in the beginning. Gratitude is a way of living that takes time for many, especially if they believe they are entitled. It is a small thing to do in your family. It can be done with each child, one at a time each day. Every day. Consistently. Why do I say one child at a time? Firstly what a special discussion time for you and your child every day! Secondly, kids are competitive. By talking with them alone, each has the opportunity to speak without feeling theirs wasn’t as good as a sibling. Janet Eltaktouk wrote an article in the Sun Sentinel entitled Five Ways to Create an Attitude of Gratitude in Children that continues this discussion. Every little bit of gratitude is a good thing!

After a few weeks, discuss gratitude about certain activities, abilities or people. What are you grateful for that happened in school today? What are you grateful to Grandpop for? Later, you can add things like, Do you think your teacher knows you are grateful for him or something he did? How could you let your sister know you appreciate her? Children who begin to recognize all the things in their lives they have to be grateful for, and give gratitude for them will increase living from their heart. The day will come when most days are days of celebration!

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