There is a direct connection between how a child feels and how a child behaves.
When they feel right, they behave right.
Feelings and behaviors present differently at different ages and stages, but each one is as important as the next. A toddler may unknowingly feel angry and unknowingly react (like throwing a toy... or a full-blown tantrum). A school-aged kid may unknowingly feel inferior and act out in a desperate attempt to be 'cool' rather than 'lame'. And the teen years - oi vey - it's hard to choose just one hypothetical feeling, but a common coping strategy for uncomfortable or overwhelming feelings is to escape or to numb. When we lack self-awareness, we tend to act in ways that are less than ideal. Identifying feelings is a solid first step to self-awareness.
Allowing feelings to exist builds connection and trust in interpersonal relationships.
This means they're more likely to tell you things! When a teenager rolls their eyes and makes fun of your outfit, listen and be curious. You might notice that they feel inferior about their outfit (... and about lots of things). When a school-aged child says they hated their birthday party (that you just spend a fortune on and worked your ass off for) listen for the whole story. They might keep talking and figure out that they hated their party because their best friend didn't pay any attention to them. And when atoddler says they hate their sibling, listen - allow them to feel comfortable enough to explore those feelings. Feelings are like icebergs, and the behaviors that present themselves are just the tip. There's so much more underneath which they're more likely to tell you about if you listen. don't judge. don't deny. don't advise. just listen to your child and allow any feelings that arise. it's worth it - your child is worth being curious and getting to know all of their feelings - the deep, below the surface, iceberg feelings. allow it all to flow - you might connect more deeply than you ever imagined.
Being curious about your feelings builds a strong connection between your body and your brain.
In many areas of the world, teaching children how to listen to their body is part of culture, family tradition, or school curriculum. This actually comes quite naturally to kids. Even at their youngest, kids will tell you (sometimes loudly and inappropriately) about feelings they're having in their body or brain (they're hungry, they're hot, they're not tired, they're all of the above). With the best of intentions, we usually dismiss them (please eat your dinner, keep your coat on, go. the f. to sleep. BECAUSE I SAID SO!) A school-aged child might say their stomach hurts but they still have to go to school. A teen doesn't know how to explain how scared they are, so they eat. or drink. or bury themselves in their cell phone. Kids are quickly discovering what many adults are pros at - numbing or escaping our feelings rather than feeling them. I'm not BY ANY MEANS against treating yourself to a dessert or a cocktail - but I am much more in favor of feeding our bodies what they actually crave - which is often just a bit of attention and care. Our emotions are stored in our body - so paying attention to our feelings and making healthy choices is something we all benefit from - and our kids need it like their life depends on it.
Feeling our feelings builds intuition.
We need intuition to help us know when we're on the right path or know when to get out of an unsafe situation. We know, as adults, that we rely on intuition to make lots of big decisions (a job offer, child care, selling/buying a house). But why would kids need intuition?! Well, first of all, if we build it when they're young - imagine how intuitively strong they'll be as adults?! But also, intuition is important at ALL ages. When a toddler is first exposed to feeling fear (the dark, being alone, shadows) they need to know what to do next. Do they rely on an adult for comforting? Or can we help them build and feel their intuition? Imagine your school-aged child on the playground at recess. Their friend is being mistreated - maybe even bullied. They may have been 'taught' what to do, but do they do it? For teens, building intuition is so important because they are becoming independent. You can't be there all the time (unless you bug their phones, which honestly, no judgement - do what you gotta do), but in reality, you're not there for every decision they make. At this age they are making pretty big decisions (do I get in the car with my friend who's been drinking? do I say or do something so I'm liked? which school do I choose?) teen years are a pretty tricky time (see my other blogs) but it's super important that they learn how to listen to their intuition.
Our intuition guides us to stay safe and stay on the right path.
There are no guarantees in life - but learning about yourself, allowing feelings, and teaching intuition - you can't go wrong.
Not sure where to start? Journey with me in our 10-week session about feelings. Yoga is the perfect place to be curious and explore your inner self.