When it comes to raising our children, there once was the notion that teaching our kids not to show emotion was a sign of strength. In fact, many people during childhood learn to ignore or avoid bad things because it’s easier to sweep them under the rug rather than to deal with them.
Ignoring bad experiences—and the emotions that come with them—is what mental health experts call “emotional avoidance” and it has its consequences. To cope with negative feelings, young people may resort to unhealthy behaviors, such as using drugs or alcohol, binge eating, or heightened sexual behavior.
In reality, negative emotions are important and useful because they can be turned around and used in a proactive way. Here are some tips on helping your child find the positive in negative emotions:
No matter what obstacles or challenges your child may, encourage them to try to focus on the positive side of the situation. For example, if your child is cut from the sports team, have them evaluate their strengths and how they may fit with another sport or activity.
When we talk badly about ourselves, we start to believe it. If your child says things like, “I’m a terrible person,” have them change it to, “I’m a great person!” In a few seconds, their brain will process what they just said and react accordingly. It might feel silly to them at first, but they’ll be surprised by their body’s ability to manifest the positive words they tell themselves.
If they find themselves surrounded by negative people and negative feelings, tell them to take a deep breath and walk away. Having positive friends and family members can change their attitude for the better. They deserve people who are rooting them on.
Remind your child to focus on what is happening now, not what’s happened in the past. Our imagination can run wild and replay negative experiences and memories, so it’s important to stay in the present and keep everything else in the past where it belongs.
Explain to your child that even if they feel like things seems to be falling apart at the moment, there’s always a reason to be thankful. When they work to find gratefulness and thankfulness for such things as family, friends, pets, and hobbies or activities that bring them joy, they’ll find that situations that may have once upset or exhausted them feel less worrisome to deal with.
Accepting and processing negative thoughts and emotions may be difficult for your child. But by teaching them that we can find the good in negative emotions, they will begin to be more in tune with their feelings and continue to hone and improve their emotional intelligence.