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!

Kids Need to Learn to Be. Be What? At Peace With Themselves.

Gram looked up from her cup of tea. “There are many things to do! But you don’t have to always do something. You can just be.”

Gabby looked at her grandmother “Be what?” she asked.

“You don’t have to be something. Just be you! Bring your Loving Self as close as you can. Forget about all the outside things your ‘all about me’ self is involved with, and wants to do.” imagesQMP5XHRX

Gram took another sip of tea, “At first you might need to lie down, or close your eyes, or be in a quiet space. Then just be.

Kids need to learn to be at peace with themselves, to think by themselves, to love themselves. We all need to let go, breathe deeply and be one with quiet. As I sit here in the moment, I feel a breeze on my face, the rustle of leaves, a distant boat and many birds. I am grateful for all of it, but I had to learn to be.  In an article in the Huffington Post, this is also called mindfulness training.

In a world of TV, video games, email, Instagram and phones that do it all, sitting alone has changed. More and people are not participating in the events they go to, much less spend quiet time with their thoughts. It is an easy change, but takes some effort.

So why should kids (and you) learn to be at peace with yourself? My first thought is to find out who you are. Sure you know what you think you think but is that really you? Do you sound like your mother? Grandmother? Best friend? Discovering that many of “my” beliefs weren’t mine at all, was a huge surprise.  Here I am defending what I believe to be true and I never considered whether I really believe that. Think that is ludicrous? Try it! Analyze your strong beliefs. What do you defend to the nth degree? Any chance someone else’s points might be valid? You will never know if you don’t take time to think about it in the quiet and from your heart. Many of your beliefs were set while you were a young child. Many of those beliefs you have already passed on to your children and they aren’t even yours!

Prayer and meditation are valuable in connecting with God, your creator. Connection beyond one’s self helps children as well as adults stay centered and grounded and with that comes power- not over someone or something else, but from within, a feeling that all things are possible. One of the first affirmations I learned was from Tony Robbins, “All I need is within me now.” That is powerful!meditating 8yr old

During peace and quiet times, gratitude can flourish if children are taught to make it a part of their daily thoughts. It is a frame of mind that once learned reduces negativity, fear, judgment and criticism. Positivity becomes the primary thought process. With gratitude comes joy. With joy, their ‘all about me’ self, your ego diminishes bringing you and them closer to peace.

Children can also be taught to set intentions, like a to-do list for a way of being.   Rather than, ‘I will make my bed’, it might be, ‘I will be kind and helpful to my sister.’ Just being alone in quiet is a perfect time for this! They can call it their ‘to be” list!

Quiet time, just being time allows children to learn to appreciate themselves as well. Quiet alone time can be used for ‘What I love about me’. Gram told the children in the story “Just Being” that by loving themselves as God loves them, they are showing appreciation for the gifts He gave them. She also recommended that they thank Him for things they don’t quite believe are true yet because the more they think it and say it, the sooner they will believe in themselves.

Contentment comes with just being which leaves boredom out of their vocabulary. Now that is truly a gift!