EMOTIONAL SAFETY FOR OUR KIDS
Damaging Our Kids
How much damage are we doing to our own kids? You may think that it is only your toxic partner that is hurting them, but you will be surprised to find that you are perhaps adding to that damage too.
“I was SO wrapped up in trying to keep peace that I pushed my own kids’ feelings under the rug right along with everything else.”
I used to say to myself, “Why can’t my boys just do what is necessary to keep their dad happy?” Because they were kids!
I used to wonder, “Why don’t the boys get it? Can’t they just do what he says? It would be so much more peaceful.” Because that is not their role in life. They are allowed to be kids, and they are allowed to express themselves. They are people too!
They were good boys just being kids, and I was asking the wrong questions. Instead of asking why the boys didn’t get it, I should have been asking why doesn’t my husband get it? Why can’t he let them be kids? Why doesn’t he accept them as they are?
My focus was all wrong. I was trying to keep peace with the elephant in the room. I made my priority to keep my husband happy because he was the meanest to everyone when he was unhappy. We paid a high price when he was upset.
In trying to keep peace, I pushed everything under the rug as fast as I could. I quieted and corrected the boys, even when they were doing no wrong. I jumped on them quickly simply to beat their dad to it, knowing that he would be unreasonable. All because I wanted to keep peace with their dad.
I paid a high price for this mistake. My boys learned that their feelings didn’t matter. They couldn’t be angry. They couldn’t be happy. Any and all of their feelings were pushed down due to emotional fear.
One thing I learned in all of this is that feelings matter! Emotional safety is hugely important! Without it, we will simply go crazy. If our pushed down anger doesn’t kill us, then our own stress level will. .
Emotional safety is crucial! What is emotional safety?
-Feeling free to express yourself, free from judgment and criticism
-Being free to feel your own feelings
-Having the freedom to get mad and work through it on your own
-Having the freedom to be happy and silly
-Being internally relaxed
-Feeling safe to let your guard down
-Openly free to share our hurts, fears, dreams, tender feelings
-Free to be vulnerable and non-defensive
-Knowing that you are not responsible for the other person’s feelings
Without this emotional safety, we build defenses. We defend ourselves against potential criticism, blame, shame and rejection. We defend ourselves by being critical of others and minimizing their needs and feelings.
How do you give them emotional safety?
The absolutely best first step is to work on emotional safety yourself. Are you emotionally safe? Do everything you can to put yourself in this safety first. As you do, your own defenses will come down. Work on being internally relaxed, both mentally and emotionally. This is the single best thing you can do for your own kids’ emotional growth.
Let your kids express anger. Don’t be afraid of it or quit to shut it down. If they are expressing it, then they are not bottling it up inside them. This is a good thing! They need to learn that there are boundaries for expressing anger. Throwing things or hitting people should not be acceptable. Give them safe ways to release that anger. Hitting a workout bag or pillow, throwing a tennis ball forcefully at a safe wall, and kicking a beach ball are some great examples.
Don’t judge and criticize them when they express their dreams. Don’t superficially praise them either. Be open to their ideas, and at the same time be honest with your own opinions.
Remember that your kid is a fellow human being. Yes you brought him/her into this world. But they are still a separate human being, with their own ideas, thoughts, dreams, fears, feelings, and life. Look at them as such. See them for who they really are.
Explore this emotional safety further. Help your kids to develop emotional skills and emotional health. For more information on helping your kids’ emotional development, check out my ebook devoted just to this. Parenting with a Toxic Partner: The Child’s Stunted Emotional Development