Dealing with Feelings
I've recently read the book How to Talk so Kids will Listen, and Listen so Kids will Talk by Faber and Mazlish. Pretty much an eye-opener for me as a first time mom, but also as a wife, daughter and friend. If you are like me - a little bit sensitive but outgoing, easily hurt, have difficulty opening up, and also never knowing the right words to say when someone is sad - then it's a great book to start learning about some real practical ways to practice empathy with your children but also all your other relationships.
And because I love the book so much, I tried illustrating some of the key ideas in the first portion - DEALING WITH FEELINGS. I believe that a lot of the hurt and pain being inflicted by people online and offline comes from their own hurts and pains from childhood and beyond. How we treat each other at any age MATTERS to the peaceful world that we all seek to build. Dealing with feelings and relationships is an art, not a science - but one that we need to give priority to if we want a better world.
So here goes!
1. Instead of multitasking, give your full attention.
Sounds so simple and yet so difficult to do when we have been accustomed to glorify ‘multitasking’. But honestly as an adult, have you experienced having intense emotions of joy or sadness and the one you are talking to is on her/his phone? It makes me feel unimportant and I would withdraw instead of insist on making a connection.
As a child, how would you feel if the one person you trust (a parent) doesn’t seem to listen to you when you’re having a bad day? And then we worry if our child will talk to us if something bad happens to them.
I’m guilty of being glued to my phone too and not listening to my spouse, parent or child when they needed me to listen. I am imperfect but it is important to know and apologize if we do make them feel unimportant and unseen because of multitasking. This does not mean that we have to stop everything we have to do as adults (especially with WFH). It just means we become more mindful of when a (little or big) person is talking to us and we set clear expectations / boundaries on our availability to connect deeply. It’s sometimes tricky but we can always try and find ways that will work for our families.
TASK 1: Try to put your phones down when someone tries to communicate with us. Make your loved ones feel seen and loved, just by listening and being present. ☘️
2. Instead of questions and advice, acknowledge with a few words.
Have you experienced expressing sadness or frustration to someone only to feel more frustrated after? You did not like what they said, their advice is not okay for you or you feel they are blaming you for the frustration you feel.
This to me is the hardest! Whenever a friend approaches me to share a sadness, I feel like I need to ask questions and give advice to make them feel better. Worse, I’d share my own experiences (which they don’t really need or asked for at the moment). I did not know that sometimes the best gift is a listening ear and sympathetic silence.
For children, it may be difficult to think through their problems clearly if an adult is constantly talking. Worse, they may feel that adults are blaming them or complaining about how they feel. Simple acknowledgment and a caring attitude can give space for a child to explore their own feelings and thoughts.
TASK 2: Try to hold your tongue and truly listen. Give space for your loved ones to explore their own without judgment or advice from us.
3. Instead of denying the feeling, give the feeling a name.
No matter how well-meaning we may be, denying a feeling or making a feeling seem invalid will not make anyone feel better. I relate this somehow to ‘toxic positivity’. When a person feels tired or sad and shares it online, people on social media would sometimes immediately tell them to be grateful for whatever blessings they have that other people don’t —— which is well-meaning BUT sometimes would make you feel worse, ungrateful. “What is wrong with me?” self talk then happens.
I do the same. I struggle with people feeling sad. I like it when people are happy and I don’t know how to deal with sadness. I want you to be happy what can I do??? My husband often reminds me - “empathy first” before anything else. Give space for the feeling to be felt and understood. Sometimes that is all that we need.
TASK 3: What we can try together - next time a child or a person cries or is sad or angry, try not to tell them “don’t cry” or “don’t be angry”. Instead try to articulate the feeling and help the other feel understood. Hopefully one day they can do the same for another person in need too. 🌿
4. Instead of logical explanations, give wishes in fantasy.
Especially for sensitive people, outright rejection can be really hurtful even for the simple things. As an adult, how many times have you felt bad for other people shutting down your suggestions *immediately*. No, that can’t work because blah blah... You know they don’t mean to hurt you personally but you feel ... well, hurt, maybe stupid or even unworthy to give anymore other ideas. You wish someone would just listen to you and hear you out.
Children may not know that their ideas, demands or requests are unreasonable or illogical. It is not a parent’s job to give them everything they ask for. It’s our job to make them feel loved and seen. For our sanity, we can inject some humor into our parenting by agreeing with our child in fantasy. “I see you want to eat ice cream now. I’d love to give you ice cream if we had some. I wish we had all the ice cream flavors in the world!” Exaggerate depending on age? 😆
TASK 4: Instead of saying no and explaining the logical why, try to acknowledge and give wishes in fantasy. Sometimes that is all it takes to feel listened to and understood. ✨
Finally a last quote from the book modified a little bit by me:
I really hope you can read the book! It has so many golden nuggets of wisdom to improve your relationships. You can check out the book here: https://amzn.to/34O32QQ
If you want a high resolution copy of the illustrations above, you can download and save on your phone (or print as a poster for your refrigerator or door) here. Thanks and cheers to a more peaceful you, and the world! 💖