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Do You Let Your Grandchildren Express Their Emotions?

by Sue Gillespie (Grandma Sue)

Carolyn was just a toddler and I had to take her temperature…rectally. When her dad came home from work, she announced to him, “I’m as sick as my buns’.

Kids don’t know how to express it right – but they do need to express what they’re thinking and feeling.

I’m better at this as a grandma than I was as a mom. My initial reaction has been to reject emotions – if they are ‘bad’, (jealousy, anger, hate, etc.) and switch into self talk that says, “I (or you) shouldn’t feel this way”.

I worked in a coffee shop for a while and observed many adults enter the store with a child. Time after time, I observed a child becoming upset about something.Example:  They wanted a certain food item and the adult said ‘No’. And time after time, I watched as the adult began to launch into ‘please don’t be upset’ mode. Completely silly words would begin to pour out of the adults mouth as they would say anything they could think of the keep the child from getting upset. I began to wonder: why do we do this?  Why do we work so hard to keep our children from FEELING upset…or mad…or whatever?

Instead – shouldn’t we be helping them learn how to deal with their feelings?

Have you ever been a ball of emotion and had someone affirm your feelings? A friend of mine is living through the trauma of a sister committing suicide.She knows all the pat answers.She knows a lot of Bible verses.At one point, do you know what helped her the most? A friend came over with a bottle of wine and said, “Aren’t you SOOOO angry? Tell me about it.”

I’ve watched a child deal with a father that abandoned her. At different stages of her little life, her emotions have overwhelmed her.She will cry and talk and cry some more.I can see the healing begin to glow in her eyes when I say things like,”It hurts, doesn’t it?” or “Honey, what you’re feeling is ok.”

I don’t have to try and CONTROL their emotions. I don’t have to have the answers for them. I don’t have to pull out words of wisdom and solve all their struggles. I DO need to let them know what they are feeling isn’t bad or wrong – it’s just what they are feeling. And, I DO need to help them learn how to deal with their feelings.

So instead of saying, “Don’t be upset,” (or depressed, or angry, or jealous, or fearful, etc.)how about saying, “I can tell you are feeling_______(upset). That’s OK. Everyone feels like this sometimes. So, what do YOU want to do about it?” Don’t jump in and try to solve things for them, but begin to engage them in the process of ‘how to handle’ it. Give them suggestions as to what YOU do when you feel upset. How do YOU handle it. What works? What doesn’t work?

This EMPOWERS them and gives them tools to use to deal with the emotions they will face in life.It respects them and places the CONTROL of their decisions and actions in their own hands – which is where it belongs.

Sue is a Craniosacral Therapist and Foot Reflexologist and is the author of

Books available at: www.grandma-sue.com



Christine Crosby

About the author

Christine is the co-founder and editorial director for GRAND Magazine. She is the grandmother of five and great-grandmom (aka Grandmere) to one. She makes her home in St. Petersburg, Florida.

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