Thriving Families

Thriving Families w/ Coach Michele Johnson- Parent/Child Development Specialist

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New School Year and Tons of Emotions!

It’s the beginning of the school year, and I am going down memory lane. I remember all the emotions I had every new school year, excitement, AND anxiety are the two that stand out the most. As a classroom teacher or when I was a middle school principal, I would get so excited preparing my classroom or school for the new school year. Getting the bulletin boards up, setting up the student desks, my desk or making sure the school was spotless and teachers had everything, kept me full of joy with anticipation of all the students and staff coming back from vacation. AND, it also made me really anxious and nervous. I wondered if I was ready, did I do all I needed to make sure all my students were successful this year, did I do get everything set up so I could be successful too? Once I became a parent, I had a couple of other emotions. End of summer meant I wouldn’t have the same amount of time with my children that I had in summer, we get so busy once school starts and I had to be very intentional about making sure they got as much time as my students did. The first day of school was exciting, we had spent the few days before getting all the school supplies labeled and organized, this was a family ritual. The first day of school for me as a parent was also a sad moment for me. I have literally missed most of my kids first days of school, teardrops form as I have this memory. I missed them because I had to be in my classroom or school for my students on the first day of school.

I am sure you and your child are having some of these same emotions right now, you may feel excitement, anxiety and maybe even sad. Emotions run high at the beginning of a new school year. Emotions are normal and you can have many emotions at once, even opposing emotions. It is so important for us to allow these emotions to have space, emotions are messages that tell us something. They serve a function. Emotions tell us if something or someone isn’t safe, they can tell us when we need to stand up for ourselves or they tell us who we are drawn to or move us towards goals. Also emotions allow us to be conscious of our current state of being as well as our current needs. Emotions allow us to express ourselves and our needs in relationship and allow us to have connections with others. And yet, sometimes we may try to avoid or bury certain emotions. We may even judge certain emotions as “bad”. The reality is that emotions aren’t meant to be judged; they are meant to be felt and allowed to pass. Emotions don’t just go away because we avoid them or bury them. They don’t cease to exist. They build over time. They continue to take up space in us. We begin to feel as if we are “going to explode” because we haven’t allowed our emotions to pass; we have not released them.

We are created in God’s image and as we begin to see and accept all emotions as normal, I want you to know God has emotions also. There are a number of passages in scripture that speak of God’s emotions:

• Anger – Psalm 7:11; Deuteronomy 9:22; Romans 1:18
• Compassion – Psalm 135:14; Judges 2:18; Deuteronomy 32:36
• Grief – Genesis 6:6; Psalm 78:40
• Love – 1 John 4:8; John 3:16; Jeremiah 31:3
• Hate – Proverbs 6:16; Psalm 5:5; Psalm 11:5
• Jealousy – Exodus 20:5; Exodus 34:14; Joshua 24:19
• Joy – Zephaniah 3:17; Isaiah 62:5; Jeremiah 32:41

God’s emotions are rooted in His holy nature and are always expressed sinlessly. God’s compassion, sorrow, and joy are all perfect expressions of the Perfect Being. There are two wonderful things concerning God and emotions: first, He understands our emotions (since He created us with the capacity to feel them), and, second, His own emotions continually flow from His perfection. God will never have a bad day; He will never change His feelings toward His redeemed.

I think most of us can agree that certain emotions are perhaps easier or more comfortable to feel. However, ALL emotions are meant to be felt, experienced, and expressed. Without this, emotions can’t pass, emotions are temporary, and they come and go. As adults you have the capacity to manage your emotions, but your children are not able to yet and need your help. I want you and your child to be able to manage all the emotions you feel during this new school year season. The American Association of Pediatrics continues to express the importance of helping our children manage stress, support them, make sure their voices are heard and help them learn strategies to cope with stress.

Let me share some ways you can help your child manage the emotions they may begin to feel as school starts this year. Our kids need to be aware of their thoughts and feelings and be able to express them. Most are aware of the primary emotions: joy, sadness, surprise, anger, disgust and fear. As parents you want to begin to expand their feeling and emotion vocabulary. As this school year starts begin to use the primary words to ask your child things like: what part of going back to school brings you joy, then use the secondary words (see chart below) to ask how their day went- this should get you the why they are feeling that way, if not ask why, what made you feel like this…. – this will help them develop the ability to express their emotions and will increase connection and communication with you and your child – instead of the question we all like to ask- how was your day- how did you feel today?

It is important to remember to validate your child’s response when they share their feelings with you. As adults, we know that it can be scary to be vulnerable when sharing difficult emotions. Be sure to say things such as, “I hear you,” “I understand,” and, “It is okay to be sad.” You can also use sympathetic and empathetic statements like, “It must be difficult to feel that way,” “I feel that way too when.” You can also use this as a platform for teaching your child ways to make themselves feel better. Ask them, “What can you do to feel better?” For instance, if a child identifies that they are feeling fearful, you can help them brainstorm a list of what makes them not feel afraid. This could be things like a warm hug, reassurance from a parent, or checking in with a friend. In this way, you also teach your child coping skills so that they can begin to regulate their own emotions.

Primary and Secondary Emotions
JOY: joyfully, interested, playful, confident, loving, sensitive, courageous, hopeful SADNESS: sad, bored, sleepy, unhappy, ignored, guilty, lonely alone SURPRISED: startled, confused, amazed, excited, shocked, astonished, eager, dismayed
ANGER: mad, jealous, embarrassed, furious, infuriated, withdrawn, frustrated, skeptical DISGUST: awful, disappointed, hesitant, revolted, loathing, judgmental FEAR: humiliated, rejected, worthless, insecure, anxious, scared

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