Parents are not only responsible for meeting the physical needs of their children, along with teaching them life skills such as regulating emotions, coping with strong feelings, and appropriate responses to those feelings. It isn’t always easy as a parent, especially if you struggle to control with managing your emotions or coping with strong feelings, especially negative ones.
Often times parent’s behavior becomes the model for the way their children regulate emotion. Proper or improper labeling for what they feel and the ability to recognize the onset of their emotions is very much a learned behavior. Emotionally unhealthy parents are at great risk of minimizing their children’s feelings or even worse ignoring them altogether. Therefore, children and adults must learn how to observe and accept challenging emotions, and even utilize those moments to connect on a deeper level.
Feel, Felt, Found
When I think about this month and our theme, “Fresh Start,” I think about simple solutions that bring about the connection we all need and desire. Often, I use three words in my practice and even with my child to identity and deal with intense emotions: Feel, Felt, Found.
Below, I will describe a scenario that demonstrates how I use these words to teach healthy coping skills and connection opportunities to the parents and families I work with in therapy. These simple three-words can make a world of difference to someone feeling intense emotions and learning how to cope with them.
If you need help regulating your own emotions or need family counseling, reach out to our office, Vander Hooven and Associates. We specialize in helping clients deal with trauma, anxiety, depression, substance abuse, adoption, parenting, and attachment issues. Please call our office at 805-405-4767 or fill out a contact form here on our site.
Here’s a real-life example of using these words “feel, felt, and found” in action. The child’s name in this scenario will be “Joe.”
“I see that you (Joe) are feeling sad right now.”
Acknowledging the child’s feelings not only validates them but also helps them to notice their emotions as well.
“I, too, have felt sad at times.”
Again, acknowledging and even normalizing that sadness is a valid and acceptable feeling.
“What I have found that has helped me (when I am ready to feel no longer sad) is to dance it out or ask for a hug.”
Letting your child know that they can feel whatever emotion they want too, and choosing their response to that emotion is ok when they’re ready.
“Feel, Felt, Found” is a simple approach to teach acknowledging, naming, and regulating emotions. It’s also a great skill to apply in your adult life when faced with complicated feelings or intense situations.
Connect Through the Tough Emotions
Please make this a challenge to be aware of the opportunities to connect with your child when there are intense emotions on display. What can you do in that moment to allow yourself or your children to be heard and validated? We all deal with emotions, good and bad. It’s ok to feel, and it should be a very normal part of life. Trust your gut instinct! Remember, this is another area in your parenting where you can connect with your child instead of correcting them for having a tough emotion or teaching them unhealthy coping skills. When you feel upset if your child has a tantrum or intense feeling, see it as a call to CONNECT with them instead of disconnecting as a result of the discomfort you feel.
Again, at Vander Hooven and Associates, we are here to help you if you are having trouble dealing with challenging emotions or coping with intense situations in your daily life. Self-regulation is a learned skill, and I believe it is worth the effort if it means a deeper connection with your loved ones. Please reach out if you would like help. Call our office at 805-407-4746.
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Maurissa Szilagi, Senior Clinician, is an Associate Clinical Worker specializing in attachment issues, connection with others, trauma, foster care and adoption, and family counseling. She is in private practice at Vander Hooven and Associates. Maurissa earned her Master of Education in Psychology and Human Development from Harvard’s Graduate School of Education. She also earned her Master’s in Social Work from the University of Southern California. She has extensive experience in foster care and adoption attachment counseling and provides one-on-one coaching and counseling with individuals and families.