Navigating Big Emotions: Parenting in a World of ConflictsOct 20, 2023
What a way to kick off episode #101 - and yet I will admit that my episodes are timely. They are reflecting what is going on now.
So, now, in Oct of 2023, there is a lot of crappola hitting the fan - and I’m not trying to be flippant. There are wars in Ukraine and Israel, conflicts around the world, poverty and racism and environmental tragedies. And I do not demean any one of them by putting them in one sentence. It is just to reflect that no matter who you are, you are likely aware of significant turmoil that others are facing and perhaps even in our own families.
It is devastating.
And our kids are still trying to figure out their own lives.
Our kids have emotions and drama that may not have anything to do with these big world problems.
How do we address these?
Well, a Christmas gift and a recent conversation shed light on this in our family.
A few years ago I received a gift from my kids, unwrapped it to fine a beautifully calligraphied, framed picture that said, “Shut up. You’re fine!”
I had apparently said it. And enough times that it was remembered by my kids as a mantra. Of course I don’t remember saying it, but I do remember thinking that my kids were doing just fine… we were safe, we had enough to eat, could learn and thrive.
And yet… we had our own drama. My kids had their own struggles and in the spirit of trying to put it all into perspective,
I disconnected from them.
I wasn’t open to their experiences, their emotions, their conflicts and problems.
I was inflicting a wound upon them: one of disconnection, not hearing/seeing them for what they were concerned about.
A recent conversation emerged with the armed conflicts and a family member said, “Well the kids don’t have anything to worry about. This puts it all into perspective.”
Perhaps for us, as adults.
Not for kids. And honestly my own grief and problems don’t get checked because there is conflict in the world.
If that were the case, wouldn’t we all be having the most amazing lives because someone somewhere else was having it much worse than us so… so what? So it’s all a ranking of problems?
That’s just a trick our brains do to make sense and order of the world. Our brains compare and sort and rank.
And we feel.
Trying to rationalize one conflict as being more significnact than another problem makes one big mistake:
It tries to create a line between rationalization and feeling. And there is no line there.
We can’t stay in rationalization mode, ranking and ordering and telling ourselves something isn’t a problem when we are actually feeling it, focused on it.
When we do that, one of two things happen:
We focus on it even more as trying to avoid and deny can make feelings stronger
We devalue our own experiences. We start telling ourselves it doesn’t matter. And when we feel… we tell ourselves that we don’t matter.
At its heart, this is a human issue, meaning an issue of being heard, seen, valued and connected with others.
I have told stories before and will do it over and over again: I have made mistakes and I continue to make them.
But here is what I’m learning:
Being open to others
Being open to what I am experiencing and feeling
Reminding myself that we all have problems
Getting curious with myself and others to understand the problems - and that means understanding how it is a problem for the individual (me! My kids, my patients/families, family) and what is the emotional experience
Sit with the emotions - don’t downplay, don’t compare, don’t dismiss, and for the love of all things good, don’t gaslight – the feelings are real and the feelings are not the problem.
This is what we are doing in Family in Focus when we get to understand so much more about the concerns that any parent has about their kids, whether it is weight, mental health or any other concern. How often are you worried and folks tell you to not worry? That the kids don’t “look sick” or don’t meet threshold for a diagnosis. My friends, that is just like comparing our worries to problems around the world. There is no grading.
Your worries are your worries - and deserve to be understood without assumptions and without comparison to others.
In another timely example, as all these things are happening around the world, my family is receiving word about my husband being stationed to the other side of the world. This, my friends, was not expected. I have been grieving. Others are trying to compare to big world problems, or placate me that there is nothing to grieve because we are being stationed on “an island paradise.” The comparisons aren’t valid when I see myself in a paradise right now: near family and working with families who are experiencing a different form of connection for the first time. Talking about emotions, school expulsions and juvenile detention… this is my paradise.
Yeah, I’m a unique person. And I’m learning how to be a better mom to my kids, being open to whatever they are experiencing as I realize that it’s all about the feelings. And the most important thing we can do is connect to our own experience, and connect with our kids and their experiences that they are having right now. Because that is not the problem. Feelings never are.
Much love to you and your family.
Check out the Family in Focus with Wendy Schofer, MD Podcast!
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