We already know that suppressed emotions play a huge role not on our mental health and the way we relate to others and live our life as an adult, but also in the way our body copes and expresses itself. In other words, it can turn on and off our genes depending on the stress level and our ability to self-regulate it.
You don’t have to teach a day-old baby how to express emotions. If they are sad, lonely, hungry, or wet, you’ll hear about it. There’s nothing to teach. All you have to do is:
Allow it and give space for it. You have to hear it and you have to respond to it.
It’s not a problem that we don’t teach our kids these skills, parents, based on they lived their lives, and because of their traumas, stresses, and society, actually discourage kids from expressing their emotions.
We often hear “ Don’t cry like a girl”, “Good girls keep quiet”, or “Stop crying”, when a child gets hurt, probably the biggest mistake parents make is when they say: “Don’t cry, it’s nothing”. What they unconsciously do, and out of good intentions, is teach their kids to suppress their emotions.
An angry 2-year-old child should never be allowed to sit by themselves. There is nothing more natural than a wave of anger and a 2-year-old. They get frustrated over little things. They want a cookie before dinner and if you are a good parent, you’re not going to give them one before dinner. How do they express their emotions? They scream, throw tantrums, etc.
If you send your kid to a time-out, you are presenting your kid with a tragic dilemma:
1. I can have my authentic emotion or
2. I can have a relationship with my parents to whom my life depends on
But I can’t have both. To a child in time out, as they don’t have a concept of time, the process is life-threatening. They think they’ll be alone and isolated forever and it’s always going to be this way. So basically you are depriving your own child of their basic need, which is a connection with a parent. In other words, deprivation of love.
How do we allow our kids to express their emotions healthily?
The answer is the opposite of isolation and time out. When they are screaming and get frustrated, the most natural thing you can do is pick them up, and talk to them: You really want that cookie? I get it, and you will have it after dinner. Allow the anger to move through them, so they learn that anger is just something that you can let go of it.
In other words, instead of depriving them of love, show them, love, show them connection so they learn to be their authentic selves when they grow up, so they learn to aim high in life, take risks and not hold back. Show them connection instead of isolation so they don’t need to choose between being authentic and being deprived of love and connection. So they don’t grow up thinking they have to earn and do things to get love and be loved and stay connected with others i.e. please others, put others' needs first before their own, and say YES when they should be saying NO.