emotions

The Greatest Gift

What do children need?

Any loving parent wants to give their child tools to navigate the world. Perhaps they want to teach them resilience or work ethic, strength of character or creativity. When your child shows an interest in dinosaurs, you rush to buy him books, toys, trips to the museum. How about the child who loves to learn about space – perhaps a hanging mobile with all the planets? Some children love to do a particular sport, so parents invest time and money giving them all the opportunities they can. My bias is for teaching children about emotions.

Emotions

What better tool can any child have than to be fully fluent in noticing, labeling, accepting and embracing emotions? This includes their own as well as other’s. With a solid appreciation of emotions we can navigate the world and all it has to offer. We have an edge in whatever career we choose as well as being able to thrive in relationships with our partner and children. Our ability to connect with others using empathy enriches our life. Imagine going for an interview with an understanding of your own anxiety as well as an ability to read the non-verbal feedback you’re receiving from the interviewer.

How to start?

From an early age be curious with your child about feelings. Talk about emotions in books that you read together, in movies, in make-believe play, as well as when you see people in the store or on the street. Ask questions like: “What do you think she’s feeling?” or wonder aloud: “That seems scary; I wonder how he feels.” Engage your child in conversations about feelings and allow them to enjoy the puzzle, too. There are rarely right or wrong answers, so be open to discussing the clues. Can they feel more than one feeling at once? Can they notice the scale of the feeling? Talk to them about your own feelings, even the uncomfortable ones. Allowing children to understand that all feelings are acceptable goes a long way to letting them know that they are unconditionally loved.

Mindfulness

I sometimes meet 12 year olds in my office who have very little understanding of their own feelings. This is an age when emotions are about to become a lot more intense. In order to survive (and even thrive) through the teenage years, children need to know how to manage their feelings. We often work on mindfulness exercises where they learn to watch their feelings and notice the ebb and flow. Children discover that they can feel without being, so that the emotion doesn’t dictate their identity. For example, “I feel angry” rather than “I am angry,” which makes a surprising difference in your self-identity. They learn that their emotions are normal and that they fade after a while.

It is important to note that I don’t advocate “fixing” feelings. If a child is sad, she needs comfort, but she doesn’t need to have the feeling taken away. Sadness, anger, embarrassment, fear, guilt, and other uncomfortable emotions are all acceptable and manageable rather than something to avoid. When they are acknowledged they become less overwhelming and then they fade away.

It’s never too late to start teaching your child / teenager / young adult / (even yourself!) about emotions, and it’s a gift that can last a lifetime.

resolutions

It’s Not Too Late!

new years resolutions

We’re a couple of weeks into the new year and your resolutions are floundering. The exciting new you is slipping back into the comfortable old you.

The resolutions seemed so full of potential, didn’t they? Giving up Netflix so you could spend more time doing worthwhile activities. Forgoing sugar, coffee or chocolate to become healthier. You were determined and confident about your new shiny self image. It’s as if you’d put away your cozy slippers and were ready to wear your new Italian leather shoes but by the second week in January those well-worn slippers are calling out your name. Where did it all go wrong? You followed all the rules, making your goals concrete and measurable. But somehow the gap left behind by what you’ve given up hasn’t felt good. What’s the point of giving up those vices when you don’t feel better?

What went wrong?

Giving up stuff leaves you feeling deprived, like you’ve been punished. Instead of taking things away, how about adding treats? For example, instead of saying no to Netflix, how about finding a great book you’ve been wanting to read? How about drinking your favorite herbal tea or fresh water with a slice of lemon in, so you don’t even miss the coffee? Did you know apples can also help wake you up similar to a cup of Joe? And have you considered what purpose your vices were serving? If they were your way to comfort yourself or to allow yourself some downtime, my suggestion is that you find another great way to fill those very real needs.

my advice for your new goals

Start over with new goals, or at least tweak the ones that are sliding, by thinking up positive actions. Make this year great by treating yourself well and end up feeling loved!

Introvert

Introverted or Shy?

Get to know your introvert

Sometimes people assume that introverts are shy, but that isn’t always the case. Often introverts are people who prefer to observe rather than be part of the action. Introverts want to have the control to interact with others on their own terms and at their own pace. You know how it feels when someone introduces you as “hilarious” and then you have a sea of faces in front of you waiting for your mouth to open and entertain them with your incredible humor? An introvert can feel jarred that way by being dragged into a crowd of strangers. Yes, you can say something funny, but perhaps you don’t want to perform. Contrary to popular belief, introverts enjoy social events, too, and can thrive in stimulating company… so long as they can self soothe. (More on that in another blog post!)

Does your introvert really need help?

Have you considered the possibility that your friend is happy? Maybe s/he is enjoying watching and feeling quite fulfilled with the experience. If your introverted friend strikes up a conversation with someone new it’s likely to be more meaningful to them both than the connection you’d envisioned. You love knowing that you talked with (to? at?) 50+ people in one evening. Perhaps you’ve made a new friend or found a job opportunity from that networking frenzy – congratulations! However, your introverted friend processes relationships differently and would probably find more value in talking with only one or two new people and making a deeper connection.

How to really help your introvert

Supposing your introvert is unhappy in the situation that you’ve both found yourself in. Ask!  First, check out your observation – how is your friend feeling? Then, what would s/he like you to do to support them – don’t make assumptions based on what would make you glow! When well-meaning friends try to help out by introducing the introverted person to all their friends, it can backfire. Would your friend like to be introduced to someone in particular? Would they like to know that you’d be OK if they chose to leave? Perhaps they’d just like to spend a moment hanging out with you. Some people go to social events to meet new contacts, others to enjoy connecting with people they already like. If s/he is looking miserable then your intervention might be welcomed, even if it’s just some gentle feedback on how they’re bringing other people (you) down.

Just a shy extrovert?

OK, so maybe your friend really is just shy and would love to shine like you do. Have you considered where their shyness comes from? Perhaps they have low self esteem and doubt their contributions are worthy. Or maybe they have social anxiety disorder. Accessing your own gentle, empathetic skills will be appreciated and helpful in either case.

Shy introvert..?!

They’re probably not at this party or they’re standing by the door waiting to escape. Let them. Introverts need peace, shy people need a hand to hold, so if your shy introverted friend has over-challenged themselves by attending an event that demands exhibitionism they’re likely to be highly uncomfortable. Let them know that you love them just how they are and give them the right to choose how to proceed.

Enjoy!

Get to know your introverted friend and enjoy all that s/he can offer you! Most introverts are good observers of human behavior – your friend might have some great insights that could further your social ambitions. They also make for great conversationalists and are likely to listen to you better than a lot of extroverts.

What type are you?

Are you a confident, well adjusted introvert? Or are you an outgoing extrovert? Perhaps you’re a shy introvert? Or would you classify yourself as a repressed extrovert? Most people are a mix of character types according to the situation. Are you different at a board meeting than when you go visit your parents for the holidays? Where would you put yourself normally? Comments are always welcome on my Facebook page.

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