Big boys don’t cry…
You’re a whiner …
You shouldn’t be upset about it …
You’re a bad boy if you think so …
It is likely these phrases will sound familiar and bring you back to your early childhood education. In fact, perhaps you repeat them to your children without realizing it.
These phrases, and many others that we hear every day, apparently have nothing wrong, because their goal is to get the children check their thoughts and negative emotions. The problem is that through these misconception is transmitted a wrong idea: the idea that we are “bad”, when we experience some emotions or thoughts classified as negative.
From that moment on, the child begins feeling inadequate because he feels and thinks certain things that he should not feel or think. And he doesn’t know how to get rid of those emotions and thoughts. Consequently, to gain social approval and not be reprimanded, he learns to hide those feelings.
Nevertheless, when we try to avoid a natural part of our human condition, such as sadness, grief, jealousy or anger, these feelings do not disappear, but go inside, installing in the unconscious, and from there condition our decisions and mood . We must remember that we cannot choose how to feel, but we can choose what to do with those emotions and thoughts.
Therefore, parents have a great responsibility to teach their children to manage emotions and thoughts that the society classifies as “negative”. How can they do? Encouraging them to “sit down” with these negative emotions and ideas and experience them, so they can understand the message they convey.
Imagination: A powerful tool to help children learn to manage “negative” emotions and thoughts
1. Imagine that thoughts are like trains
This technique is based on the Buddhist wisdom, according to which, if we don’t resist to thoughts and emotions that bother us, these will eventually leave us. Just explain your child that these thoughts and emotions are like a train, which comes and goes. Every time he has a negative thought or experience an emotion that bothers him, he should think that these come through the station that is his mind. To the extent that the thought or emotions stop, he will feel different sensations throughout the body. Sometimes he will feel uncomfortable or that his heart beats faster. It is understandable that he doesn’t like some of these feelings or that they even scare him. But if he doesn’t focus on them, that thought or emotion, just like a train, will continue its path and leave him free to find peace of mind.
2. A handshake for thoughts
This technique is ideal for teaching children to control emotions and unwanted thoughts when they arrive at the wrong time. You just have to tell him to imagine these thoughts and emotions are like people. He can let his imagination fly and give everyone the features he prefers. Then he has to imagine being in a meeting, with many people/thoughts. Every thought or emotion will show up saying his name. But only for a quick handshake, the thought or emotion cannot stay long because the child must greet the other people taking part in the meeting. They have just time to introduce themselves and he replies: “We can talk later, when we are calmer”.
3. Giving a body to thoughts
When children are small they have difficulty recognizing their own emotions. In fact, with this technique you get the children deepened into what they feel and think, becoming aware of the impact that these ideas and emotions have in their body. In this case, the child will have to attribute a body to his thoughts and negative emotions. Ask him to sit and imagine that the thought/emotion stands in his hand. He must imagine as vividly as possible which weight it has and how it looks. The interesting thing is that as many details as he will be able to recreate the less he will feel uncomfortable with that thought or emotion, because he will be exploring it, and will stop perceiving it as something to repress and hide to begin considering it as his own feeling and perfectly normal. You can help him with some questions, such as: what color is it, how it looks, if exerts a constant downward pressure or, conversely, if it’s jumping on the hand.
4. Giving a sympathetic voice to thoughts
It is a technique that fully exploits imagination, through which we make sure that the child plays with his thoughts and emotions, subtracting them drama. This way he will feel more at ease with them and understand that he must not be afraid of them or feel uncomfortable. To put it into practice, ask him to imagine that every thought or emotion has its own personality. It is likely he pictures the rage as a menacing giant, there’s nothing wrong with that. The interesting thing is that then he must attach a nice and fun voice to that giant, like that of a clown or Donald Duck. The contrast between the image and the voice will make the child laugh, so the emotion or thought will lose some of his negative impact.
5. Imagine that thoughts are clouds
This technique is based on the Taoist idea that everything is in constant motion. In fact, it’s the principle of the Wu-Wei, a simple technique for teaching children to flow without resistance, since this is the ultimate cause of discomfort. In this case he has to imagine that thoughts and emotions are like clouds. Some will be high and light, white as cream. Others will be lower and darker, and they want download lightning and rain on the child. But the important thing is that the child understands that thoughts and emotions, such as clouds, are in constant motion and that, sooner or later, if he doesn’t oppose resistance, will follow their natural course. You can also redeem to explain that, even though he doesn’t like the dark clouds these are still important because carry the water that allows plants to grow. In this way the child understands that all emotions and thoughts have their role.