Hey, little one!
It’s okay to cry,
Sometimes, even if you don’t know why.
It’s okay to get angry,
Just to let it out.
When you don’t get what you want,
Or do something wrong,
It’s okay to feel sad.
It’s okay, if you feel funny in your tummy,
Or feel scared,
Take a deep breath,
& let it out.
I know you feel so much!
Just like we all do;
And sometimes, the feeling feels so big!
That you don’t know what to do!
And that’s also okay.
That’s what you’ll learn,
As you go along,
Creating your own feeling song!
A song that tells you, that you have the entire universe of emotions within you,
That makes you—you.
Trust me, that’s true.
So, it’s okay to feel and let it go.
Emotions are your friends,
That talk to you,
About what’s important to you
That’s all you need to know.
Every child is unique. They come with their own personality, ways of thinking, and perceiving the world. They, too, have lots of emotions just like us.
But they need to be taught how to be friends with their emotions rather than treating them as something unwanted that should be disowned and discarded. Something we adults are guilty of making them feel.
“When a child can’t calm down, they need connection and comfort. Not criticism and control.” ~ Jane Evans
In this ever-changing world, not only we, as adults, need to harness our own emotional intelligence but we need to enable the younger generation to do so as well.
We need to move beyond statements like “don’t cry,” “don’t get angry,” and so on, and create a safe space for children so that they can understand that:
>> All emotions are natural and a part of being human.
>> Emotions are our friends. They are communicating with us all the time.
>> Emotions need to be channeled. After all, any emotion is simply energy in motion. If that energy remains misunderstood or unchecked, it will create problems for the child and then for everyone around.
We often talk about being mindful, being aware, and emotionally intelligent with ourselves. What about the younger lot?
What do they do with all these big emotions like anger, hurt, guilt?
“When little people are overwhelmed by big emotions, it’s our job to share their calm, not join their chaos.” ~ L.R. Knost
This reminds me of an incident in my childhood. I was around five years old and was out in the park playing with my friend. She had come with her nanny. We were playing hide and seek. In a moment of complete innocence and silliness, I hid the nanny’s slippers in the bushes. Unfortunately, she couldn’t find them because the bushes were dense and nothing was visible.
I was terrified and extremely guilty for what I’d done. I was just playing!
However, I was so scared that I’d be scolded and yelled at by everyone, I couldn’t own up to my mistake. I carried that guilt of not owning up for a long time and it took me many years to realize that this unprocessed guilt was making me overcompensate in some way or the other at every step. It was not just about one isolated incident. It was about me not knowing what to do with this big, scary feeling called “guilt.”
Over time, it just became a pattern of me over-apologizing, over-compensating, and drowning in my “guilt!”
I wish I had felt safe enough to own up to these huge feelings then. I wish I’d known how to reason out and let go.
I spent a lot of time feeling anxious about it. Something, I know now. I wish someone had taught me to simply breathe and let the anxiety calm down or perhaps blow it out like a panda-sized bubble!
The ages between 0-8 are crucial because the child’s mind is evolving and absorbing everything like a sponge. This is also the time when children’s ideas and beliefs about themselves, others, and the world are beginning to take shape.
This then becomes an even more significant phase—to teach them how to name, understand, and process their emotions.
Depression and anxiety in kids are also fast becoming common—only because the little ones aren’t equipped to handle the burden of their complex emotions. It is our responsibility as adults to guide them and pull them out of this rabbit hole.
“You are your child’s emotional coach. It’s up to you to help kids talk about their feelings, label them, and feel understood. ~ John Gottman
Teaching them values of compassion, gratitude, patience, teamwork, and reinforcing the beliefs that they are cared for, loved, and that they are unique beings is imperative.
We as adults are responsible for raising mindful and emotionally intelligent kids who will grow up to be emotionally intelligent and mindful adults of tomorrow.
As I was exploring more about mindfulness in children, I came across something unique: “I can be anything,” an animal affirmation card deck by Little Luminaries.
I was fascinated by what I saw. An affirmation deck for kids that teaches them 45 vital values like to be compassionate like the elephant, grateful like the sea turtle, resilient like the lizard, using animal stories, interactive play, trivia, and positive affirmations.
We all know how powerful affirmations are. Imagine, if we could enable our kids to harness the same while the neural pathways in their brains are forming?
Being emotionally intelligent is not a privilege anymore and shouldn’t be. It’s the need of the hour for us, adults and our younger ones.
If we trace back to our own childhood, we can find so many instances where we didn’t know what to do with what we felt. So, we either stuffed it down, pushed it out, forgot about it, or acted out. Before we realized it, it had become a part of our system. Some of us carry such burdens for an entire lifetime.
But we have an option today. We have resources today. It is up to us to equip kids with the tools and knowledge to be aware and use that awareness for optimal growth.
We need to let the younger ones know the power of presence, empathy, and letting go.
We need to help them to release the burden and simply enjoy the joy of being.
Being kids—playful, emotional, innocent, unique, independent, and emotionally intelligent who understand that emotions are their friends.
And that, it’s okay to feel.
Because, indeed it is.
It’s just that the feeling needs to be understood, honored, and channeled.
Perhaps, we need to teach kids how to be confident like the toucan or compassionate like the elephant!
After all, all children are unique, just like the peacock.
And we need to celebrate their uniqueness.
(PS Maybe we can learn a thing or two in the process.)
“I’m convinced that when we help our children find healthy ways of dealing with their feelings – ways that don’t hurt them or anyone else – we’re helping to make our world a safer and better place.” ~ Fred Rogers