Emotions… we all have them and there is no denying them as we are all born with them. Emotions are wonderful things to have, that is when they make us feel good. But, when they make us feel bad, they can potentially send us into a flat spin. Especially if it is your child who is feeling yukky and you have no idea what to do about it.
So what are emotions and what does it mean when your child is throwing a tantrum, sulking, hitting other children, feeling sad or distressed. Emotions are the energy of feelings and feelings are based on what we think, especially about what we think about ourselves and the situations we are in. Let me explain, if you think there is something wrong with you, you will feel bad about yourself. Your actions will demonstrate how you are feeling and will be expressed from a place of anger or sadness or even depression. Another example is, if your child thinks they are not important, that you are too busy to spend any time with them. This may lead them to feel neglected or isolated which will come across again as sadness or resentment or any other kind of ‘negative’ type of emotion. The behaviour from this can manifest in a few ways. Tantrums, being ‘naughty’, ill-behaved or any kind of behaviour that is displayed to seek attention. The reason for this ‘bad behaviour’ is that children would rather get any attention, including being punished than have no attention at all.
Emotions need to be viewed as a guidance system, your very own inbuilt GPS as emotion is what brings our attention to what is going on on a deeper level. A child does not have the ability or emotional literacy to express that they feeling are neglected, especially younger children, hence the reason that they demonstrate it with their emotions. However, this does not only apply to young children, but to older children and adults as well.
Our emotions also cause a chemical reaction in the body. When we feel love, endorphins like serotonin and oxytocin are released into the body. These chemicals make us feel content and peaceful and happy. When we feel frustrated, resentful or fearful, cortisol and adrenaline are released into the body which makes us feel stressed, angry and aggressive.
However, not only are our emotions affected by how we feel or think, they are also affected by our environment. What we eat, what is going on at school, what is going on at home, all has an affect on our emotions and ultimately our behaviour. When we eat processed food or food that contains chemicals like preservatives, colourants and artificial sweeteners, the body sees these as toxic or as poisons and tries to rid itself of it as quickly as possible. The behaviour that results from this is hyper activity, over activity or anxiety. Too much sugar has the same affect. In some cases sugar actually causes people to feel tired and lethargic. Especially when a person’s diet is not balanced and you are not getting enough protein, veg and healthy fats to balance it all out. Other chemicals that affect emotions and behaviour are the chemicals we inhale, like smoke, fumes, perfumes and household chemicals. All of these have an affect on the body’s chemical reaction which then affects emotions and energy.
Other factors that affect a child’s emotions, are other people’s emotions. Emotions are incredibly contagious. If parents are stressed, worried, anxious or if they bicker and fight a lot, this will be transferred to your child and they will feel what you are feeling. This can be incredibly stressful for a child because they will have no idea what to do with it and often their behaviour once again will be affected. The same thing will happen if their teacher if stressed out or if the children in your child’s class are stressed and more so if there is bullying going on at school.
I’m sure you can now appreciate why it’s so important to understand emotions so that you can help your child, and yourself, to deal with them. Unresolved emotions can cause incredible distress, anxiety and stress and the quicker you learn how to identify and ope with them, the better it is for everyone.
If you want some help understanding emotions, then do join our free support group for parents and teachers on Facebook which you can find here