Feelings and Children
Use the weather to talk about feelings.
This is described in more detail in Eline Snel’s book, ‘Sitting Like a Frog’.
Sometimes it’s difficult for children (and adults!) to discuss how they’re feeling so a really good way in is to ask about their internal weather: Is it warm and sunny? Is it a bit windy or rainy? Is there a storm brewing? This can help children to articulate what’s going on inside without needing to label their emotions and can lead to some really helpful conversations.
If you come right out and ask someone how they’re feeling, they may answer with ‘angry’ (for example). This is really a short way of saying ‘I’m angry’ and it gives the person ownership and responsibility for the emotion. This is quite a difficult thing to deal with - the idea that you are responsible for feeling angry - and makes it hard to talk about it. By speaking in terms of the weather, that responsibility is gone, making it easier to talk about. After all, we’re all affected by the weather sometimes!
All emotions are welcome.
Make sure your children know that it’s perfectly acceptable to feel whatever they feel. We tend to class emotions as positive or negative but this can lead us to think that certain emotions such as anger and fear are not desirable and we shouldn’t feel them too often. By laying out the welcome mat for our feelings, as suggested in the beautiful poem by Rumi, ‘The Guest House’, we accept that the whole spectrum of emotions is what makes us human and without the full range, we are not truly living! It’s important to remind our children and ourselves also, that feelings come and go so when we’re angry or upset, we know it will pass and make way for something else.
It’s OK to share your feelings with your children.
Of course you don’t want to treat your child like a confidente or burden them with your problems but it is fine to let them know how you’re feeling - especially if your mood affects your behaviour. By explaining, in terms they’ll understand, that you’re feeling a bit stressed or you’re exhausted and struggling a bit, they know that they are not responsible if you are short with them or don’t want to talk much.
You also give them the message that it’s perfectly normal to have emotions and talk about them! I remember when my family were preparing to move from Somerset, where we were very settled and established, to Merseyside, where we knew nobody, I was feeling quite nervous about it all and I told my 9 year old son as much. At the time, a friend of mine was astonished that I’d shared that with him, saying that it would cause him to worry but I knew it was the right thing to do. It actually allowed him to admit that he was feeling a bit nervous too but he was reassured by the fact that he wasn’t alone.
The Guest HouseThis being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice.
meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.
Be grateful for whatever comes.
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond. - Rumi