Supporting a Child's Emotional Agility

Updated: Jan 31, 2020

No parent wants to witness their child suffering emotionally. Whatever the situation, if your child is tearful or overwhelmed because of the loss of a pet or dropping an ice lolly, your obvious response is to sooth and to make them feel better as quickly as possible.

This response not only seeks to find relieve for the child, but from my own experience, it was also to sooth my own emotions, because seeing my daughter experiencing any form of negative upset, triggered such uncomfortable feelings and emotions in me, that I needed to remedy the situation to make myself feel better. As she got older and started secondary school, my anxiety would escalate when asking her how school was that day, in case things weren't ok.

Instead of allowing a child to fully experience a negative emotion, our responses often seek to provide immediate relief for both the parent and the child, but ultimately, this does not help the child in the long run. How unintentionally selfish of me, to put the lid on a small persons need to move through their feelings, in order to shield me from having to experience my own. But It was not intentional as I said, and now, as an energy psychologist working with emotions, I have been able to support my daughter as a young adult to develop emotional agility and resilience, that helps her to navigate the challenges and stresses of being a teenager. How children navigate their emotional world is crucial to lifelong success and to their mental wellbeing.

To have emotional agility, emotional intelligence, builds strength and resilience. However, as I found myself doing when she was a child, instead of allowing my daughter the freedom to explore and experience how she was feeling, I would step into her emotional space and say or do whatever I could to distract her from having to feel it. This natural parental instinct of glossing over an emotion or underlying issue, rushing to the rescue, distracting from feeling it, did not serve in helping her to learn how to help herself.

That being said, it is also not about making a child 'face up' to an emotion, as if they are enrolled in some sort of emotional boot camp, It is more about finding a balance and tacking practical steps that support the child to find their way through, rather than around, any negative emotions that surface, so they can feel what it is like to experience it, learn it and let it go. How then, can we start to be there for a child in this way, if out of our own fear, we push away negative emotions and struggle with the feelings that arise in us when we witness a child trying to understand and navigate their own.

We can find ways to start to bring the topic of emotions out into the open and start to understand that emotions are not something to be feared, instead they are an important life skill for the whole family. We can learn to lead by example through exploring our own emotional experiences and honouring the fact that every man, woman and child is a sentient being who has their own emotional world.

By understanding that we are not the emotion that we feel, for example, "i am sad, i am angry" but that we are actually only experiencing the 'feeling' of a particular emotion, allows us to acknowledge it in a better and healthier way, because it does not become our identity. This also provides children with the valuable lesson of recognising the emotions of others and being able to empathise with how others are feeling.

It's being able to process and release emotions that gives us the awareness and knowledge to know that we can carry on afterwards, and that we are also prepared in the event that we might feel that emotion again in the future. We can help a child make conscious plans for experiencing that emotion again.

This is empowerment, and this is the gift of knowing that it is not how we feel that counts, it is how we respond to the feeling, and this is emotional agility.

my name is Sharon Clark, I'm an accredited Energy Psychologist, Psychospiritual Therapist & Emotional Wellbeing Coach. I help Women of all ages to Process and Release Trapped Emotions in a Safe, Conscious and Effective Way.

Wishing you Love and Light,

Sharon x

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