January 18, 2010

Don't Hide Your Feelings

I often work with families who are in the midst of a crisis. Emotions are running high and mom and dad's parenting techniques are no longer effective. They're understandably concerned about their child who is suddenly fearful of being separated from them and is anxious about everything.

The crisis that brought them into my office has them admitting that they too are feeling many of these same emotions. They're trying very hard to hide their feelings from their child. They want to be strong and not let their child see they're vulnerable as they're fearful this would cause their child to feel even more anxiety.

This crisis affected the entire family yet mom and dad aren't talking about how they feel. Their daughter is getting the message that she's the only one who is experiencing such intense emotions.

I encourage the parents to stop pretending they're okay. I suggest they sit down with their daughter and be honest with her. They need to tell her that they too are feeling scared and anxious. By validating her feelings and sharing their own they're telling her she's not alone. They should enlist her help in coming up with suggestions for what they can do to calm themselves and get through this challenging situation.

Once they've weathered this current storm they'll feel good in knowing they got through it together. It will also be a life lesson that they can fall back on the next time their family faces a difficult situation.

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