I found a wonderful article on www.thesuccessfulparent.com regarding children experiencing negative emotions and how important it is!
Allowing Negative Feelings
One of the more difficult aspects of being a parent is dealing with our children’s negative feelings. There are a number of reasons why this is so, some of which come from our own experiences with parents and some out of a need to see our children happy. If you come from the old school of parenting, then you learned as a child that expressing your negative feelings such as anger, disappointment, sadness, frustration, and so forth, was a sign of weakness, or perhaps it signified that you were just being ill-mannered or self-centered.
The Problem with Suppression
The old saying “If you don’t stop crying, I’ll give you something to cry about,” captures one sort of attempt to suppress such feelings in children. Another approach is to ignore the negative outpouring while also bombarding the child with as many positive anecdotes as you can in an attempt to maybe cover up or overcome the situation. Yet another attempt is simply to fix the problem so that the negative feelings disappear. In each of these cases the end result is the same: the child senses that the expression of such feelings is not okay and that it would be best to try and suppress them.
This can have far reaching effects not only for children, but also for adults who have successfully learned to suppress negative feelings. The problem is that emotional suppression usually leads to other deleterious effects on our overall functioning and happiness. By suppressing our negative feelings and reactions, we create holes in reality that leave us second-guessing ourselves and prevent us from knowing the full picture of who we are and what we can do. In other words, the suppression of negative feelings ultimately ties up our good feelings too so that we find ourselves operating in very tight, rigid boxes that constrict the total personality and leave us sometimes with inexplicable reactions such as depression or anxiety.
For parents, it is important to learn how to allow our children to express their negative feelings, and then to channel those feelings into positive activity. This is much more difficult than it may sound because what is required of parents is that they actually contain their children’s pain at times without trying to get rid of it, suppress it, or simply by-pass it. It might help to begin by looking at how we go about suppressing negative feelings and reactions and then discussing a corrective method for allowing them.
Approaches that Miss the Mark
Here are some of the most common approaches parents have to dealwith negative feelings that aren’t really in the best interest of the child. See if you can find yourself in any of the types that are discussed below.
The Fix-It Approach
The “fix-it” approach is aimed at taking away the child’s pain as quickly as possible, almost before it can be felt. Let’s say Suzie comes home from school and is very upset that several of her friends have been invited to spend the night at Joanna’s house on Saturday, but Suzie wasn’t invited. Mom reacts by whisking Suzie off to the mall and buying her several new outfits of her choice, and then maybe taking her out to lunch with a promise to have a slumber party of her own in several weeks. Suzie reacts well. Within no time at all she is smiling and looking forward to her slumber party.
You might ask, “So what’s wrong with offering a slumber party as an alternative here?” Well maybe nothing, however, the problem is that no time was given for Suzie to adequately feel and express her disappointment and hurt at being left out. Worse yet, Suzie is being taught a coping mechanism that will cause her problems down the road: When you’re feeling disappointed or unhappy, reward yourself. Go shopping!
There is nothing wrong in cheering up your disappointed child, but first it’s important to let her have the experience of the disappointment, and then help her figure out the best way to cope with it. Moreover, the cure must be something that will have healthy long-term consequences, not create a new problem behavior or habit.
The “Just Get Over It” Approach
This one goes along with the “just put it behind you” approach. Going back to Suzie’s situation, Mom might say, “Hey, everyone gets left out sometimes. Come on, just smile and shrug it off.” That doesn’t really sound so bad. After all, it is true that everyone experiences rejection at some time or another, and it is something we all have to deal with sooner or later. The problem in this scenario, though, is that the feelings have not been dealt with at all, but rather the message imparted is to just get rid of them without giving them any attention whatsoever.
Over time, children interpret the “just get over it” approach as a value judgement in which negative feelings, particularly those that cause emotional pain, are weak or silly and maybe even unacceptable. As the child practices “getting over it” quickly and succinctly, they may develop the even more dangerous habit of not allowing themselves to feel painful reactions at all, but to suppress them before they come to the surface. This is highly dangerous because it nullifies the capacity to listen to certain emotional warnings that are necessary to make healthy decisions. The young man who has learned not to feel rejection may plunge headlong into relationships where he is repeatedly rejected and trammeled upon because he can’t access his own emotional warning system.
The “Children Are Starving in China” Approach
This one might sound quite familiar to many of you as one your parents used quite often. Someone is always having a more difficult time than you are, and that translates to mean your feelings are not important in the larger scheme of things. Suzie’s hurt feelings about being left out of the slumber party is nothing compared to the pain starving children feel. Well yes, that is true. But does that mean that Suzie shouldn’t feel any pain at all at being left out?
Yes, that’s exactly the message Suzie is being given. “Your feelings really aren’t important here, because others feel more pain than you do.” It can be helpful to place your own seemingly negative circumstances within the larger picture sometimes. It can allow you to draw yourself out of a sort of wallowing, self-pitying pattern. However, it is important to first learn how to feel, express, and understand your own reactions before figuring out how best to cope with them.
It’s fine to help children gain a larger picture of humanity, and in fact it’s a good idea. It’s not a good idea to use that picture to mollify or belittle a child’s emotional pain, no matter how trite it may seem to the adult. It’s through the experience of our own emotionally painful experiences that we are able to understand and identify with the pain of others.
The “My Problems Are Bigger Than Yours” Approach
When Jeremy has a melt-down on the way home from school because he couldn’t find a picture he drew that day in his backpack, it can feel like punishment after a long day at the office where you were criticized by your boss, saddled with too much work to do in too little time, and had to deal with gossipy co-workers that were taking stabs at each other. The most natural response to Jeremy would be to say something along the lines of “Knock it off. You don’t know what trouble is!” And, of course you are right. He has no idea what it’s like to be in your shoes.
The difficulty here is that what’s needed is to separate your stress from Jeremy’s experience. By overpowering Jeremy’s feelings with yours, you are communicating to him that his feelings are insignificant and not worthy of consideration. Parents who consistently meet their children’s emotionally painful expressions with statements like “just wait until you’re an adult,” or “why don’t you watch the news for ten minutes” are sending the message that such feelings should be suppressed and worse yet, not addressed.
A Better Approach
So how should parents deal with children’s negative emotions and expressions? The first rule is to simply allow them to occur. This is not so easy. It means that parents must be able to endure the feeling expressed and at the same time encourage a thorough enough expression so that the child feels understood. In essence, what this means is that the parent plays the role of facilitator and container at the same time. You facilitate the expression of the emotion while also containing the feeling without any attempt to get rid of it, bypass it, or suppress it.
Facilitate the Expression
Let’s take these two tasks one at a time. To facilitate the expression, you need to draw out the feeling by asking leading questions, listening carefully to the responses, and reflecting back what is heard. Going back to Suzie in the early example, let’s walk through the process. As Suzie comes in the door from school and tells you she is very upset, you would respond by asking questions about exactly what happened, how she learned that the other girls had been invited to the friend’s house, where was she when she heard about it, how did she feel when she heard about it, and what did she do next. Maybe she cried, or went to the bathroom so no one would see how she felt, or maybe got mad. You want to get an almost visual picture of what happened while keeping very attuned to the development of feelings along the way.
Maybe Suzie felt hurt at some points in the process, disappointed at others, and perhaps angry at being left behind. Help her elaborate not only the events, but also her feelings along the way and her emotional reactions. As she tells you what happened, reflect back to her what you think she is saying. It’s like a check and balance to be sure that you understand what happened, how she felt, and as a result, can now really empathize with her.
Contain the Emotion
That’s the facilitation piece. Now for the containing piece. Actually, this takes place as you facilitate the conversation. By allowing Suzie to recount every facet of the events along with encouraging her to verbalize the emotional process that took place, you are communicating your ability to understand how she feels while also imparting your concern and caring. You are letting her know that you are able to sustain her painful feelings and are not afraid of them, angered by them, or unable to hear them.
As she tells you about them, you are in fact emotionally containing them for her so that she can gain some space from them and some control over them. More importantly you are sending the message that life has its disappointments and that she is strong enough to endure them and work through them. How does she know this? Because you are containing and sharing her feelings in a way that shows strength and acceptance.
In some instances, the expression of the feelings are all that is required and necessary. In many cases, however, there is another step that follows which is to problem-solve. In Suzie’s case, it would be important to find out if she has had other trouble with these particular friends. Or perhaps she needs to develop some other friendships if the girls in question have been routinely rejecting or cruel. It might also be that Suzie has contributed to the problem in some way, but has no awareness of it.
A thorough examination of all the possibilities would help Suzie learn to analyze problems to see if there are ways she can resolve them. Having her own slumber party as mentioned above might be just fine once she has thoroughly worked through her hurt feelings and analyzed the situation to see if she has somehow contributed to it.
Whatever the solution, the important thing is that you are allowing your child to have the experience of emotional disappointment, rejection, hurt, frustration, anger, or whatever the feeling or combination of feelings may be. Secondly, you are teaching her how to express these feelings verbally (as opposed to acting them out). Third, you are fostering self-examination and insight that will become invaluable as your child gets older. Finally, you are teaching your child how to channel negative feelings into positive actions through a process of problem solving.
I have been asked to write a brief piece on Playdate Protocol. I found this very thorough article written by Kim Wallace on babycenter.com Take a look!
If your child’s like most, she’s been playing with (or at least alongside) other kids for a while. But now that she’s entering the preschool years her social life will pick up significantly, and playdates may take place with less familiar pals on less familiar territory. By keeping some guidelines in mind, you can help ensure that squabbles, scuffles over toys, and tears at pickup time don’t mar your child’s (or her guests’) playdate fun.
Making a “date”
Let your child lead. Ask him who he’d like to invite over. If he doesn’t have a preference, take your cues from who he seems drawn to at daycare, preschool, or your local playground.
Remember, too, that playmates don’t have to be the same age. Pairing kids of different ages has some advantages: The older child will help direct play for his young friend, and he’ll also relish being the “big kid.”
Keep it small. Three really is a crowd when it comes to preschool playdates, says Sara Wilford, director of the expert in early childhood education at Sarah Lawrence College in Bronxville, New York. Instead, limit playdates to one friend at a time. Otherwise it’s too easy for one child to feel left out, and sharing toys becomes that much more difficult.
Keep it short. An hour is fine for a first visit, and two hours is plenty for a get-together between seasoned preschool pals, says Hollidaysburg, Pennsylvania, teacher Lisa Church, author of Everyday Creative Play. Any longer than that and you’re likely to have two bored, tired, and cranky kids on your hands.
Get the facts on food. Because playdates often involve snacks, be sure to ask your guest’s parents about food allergies or sensitivities — or what their possibly picky preschooler likes to eat. Knowing a child’s preferences ahead of time can help head off a snack-time showdown.
Consider inviting parents, too. For very young children who aren’t used to being away from Mom or Dad, and even for older kids making their first visit to your home, consider making the playdate a family affair.
Invite the other parent (or caregiver) to join you for coffee and a chat while the kids play, or let her know that it’s fine to hang out for a while until her child settles in. Many kids need to work up to the “drop-off” playdate, and many parents are wary about leaving their children in the home of someone they don’t know very well.
Prepping for a playdate
Scratch screen time. Playdates can help kids improve their social and communication skills — something that’s hard to do when they’re staring raptly at a screen. Save the show or game for the post-playdate wind-down, and plan activities kids can do together instead.
Let your guest’s parents as well as your own child know about this no-screen policy ahead of time. That way, the playmate won’t show up expecting a private viewing of the new show your child’s been talking about.
Let your child help set the agenda. Talk about the importance of making your child’s friend feel welcome and then ask her which activities or toys she thinks her playmate might enjoy.
Hide favorite toys. Toy tug-of-wars are common for kids this age. You can talk about sharing until you’re blue in the face, but expecting your child to be generous with her most cherished playthings is probably expecting too much.
If your child has a few favorite toys that you know she’s loath to share, help her put them away before her friend arrives. Then set out some collaborative games and toys (blocks and play dough are good bets), as well as a few playthings she won’t mind sharing.
But don’t be surprised if your child suddenly tries to lay claim to a neglected toy as soon as her pal takes an interest in it! Help ease your child’s tendency to hoard toys by explaining to her that her friend won’t be allowed to take any toys home.
Plan some “break time.” Besides having some healthy snacks on hand, it’s a good idea to have a quiet activity ready in case the kids get too wound up. Sara Wilford suggests baking cookies or reading a book together, making a brief excursion outside, or doing an easy and relaxed arts-and-crafts project.
Get connected. As with any date, the first few minutes of a playdate can be awkward. To help the get-together get off the ground, spend some time helping the kids connect, advises Patty Wipfler, director of Hand in Hand, an organization focused on nurturing the parent-child connection.
You can do this by setting up a game or pulling out a few toys they can play with together (such as building blocks or a train set). Once the children are playing easily with one another, take your cue and fade into the background.
Be firm about clean-up. Before the kids get too involved in their play, explain that they need to clean up one activity before they can move on to the next. Waiting until the end of the playdate to initiate cleanup time leaves you with no leverage, and a much bigger mess.
If the kids simply refuse to tidy up, you can hold out a carrot — literally: “We’re ready for snack time, you two — but you have to put the blocks away first.” Of course, parents of younger kids will need to actively guide them during cleanup time.
Spark play. “Have free-form, open-ended activities available for a playdate,” says Maggie Chaffee, a former kindergarten teacher and mother of three in Walnut Creek, California.
Some suggestions: Set up a play dough table; fill a plastic basin with water and let the kids dump, pour, and stir the water (never leave them alone, though — even a few inches of water can present a drowning hazard); stock a small sandbox or sand table with shovels and pails; or put out paper and crayons or finger paints.
Give the kids two or three options and let them drift from one activity to another (or even create their own games) as the spirit moves them.
Make yourself available. Young children need help establishing and maintaining interactions with each other, so don’t expect to sit back and relax while you’re hosting a playdate. You need to be a constant — though unobtrusive — observer and occasional cheerleader.
Let kids work out their problems. While it’s important to keep an eye on everything the children do during the playdate, don’t jump in at the first sign of trouble. Small disagreements seldom last long, and if you hang back you’ll often find that the kids work out their own resolution.
Intervene if you have to. If a conflict is escalating into verbal or physical confrontation, it’s time to step in. Remain calm and make firm statements like, “I can’t let you do that to Lily.”
Explain that words and actions that hurt are not acceptable, and then coach the kids on coming up with a compromise to the original problem. If the fighting continues, separate the children for a while or introduce a new activity that’s less likely to cause conflict.
Pile on the praise. One way to keep negative behavior to a minimum is to consistently acknowledge good behavior. Statements like, “Wow, you were so nice to let Kate play with your favorite train! That made her really happy!” encourage kids to keep it up.
Give fair warning. When the end of the playdate draws near, remind the kids that their time together is almost over. (“Five more minutes, guys. Time to finish your game.”) If the playdate was a success, talk with them about what they enjoyed this time and what they might like to do at their next get-together: “You two had such fun building the block tower together. Would you like to play dress up next time?”
Send a memory home. If the kids created anything tangible (drawings, crafts, cookies), send your guest’s creation home with him. If not, consider snapping a photo you can print out and send home. Kids are often so excited to share these treasures with their parents that it helps ease them out the door at the end of a playdate.
Take the playdate on the road. Some parents find that rather than leaving both kids wailing (and one of them kicking and screaming) when a guest’s parent arrives to drag him out the door, it’s easier to end the playdate by getting everyone out of the house.
If it’s feasible, consider walking or driving your guest home, then make the trip there seem like an adventure: Have the kids race to see who can get their shoes on first, and talk about all the different sights you’ll see on the way. You just might find that the goodbyes go more smoothly on your guest’s doorstep than they would on your own.”