By Lynn M. Bunch
Our children’s emotions can change in an instant. One second everything is great; the next they’re defensive, disappointed or detached. As parents, how can we navigate this minefield of emotions and develop effective communication patterns with our children? One way is to learn to interpret their emotional responses and help them work through negative feelings before they escalate.
When we interact with others, regardless of our age, we experience a host of emotions. Understanding our own emotional responses and the responses of others is crucial to heartfelt communication.
Responses that occur when individuals are confronted by emotional conflict can be divided into four categories that are easy to remember by the acronym
Truth: Our center of alignment; state of peace and harmony.
Hurt: Our response when feeling hurt by someone’s words or actions.
Anger: Our response when we don’t share our true feelings.
Numb: Our response if we stay in “anger” and continue to deny our true feelings. Numbness is typically less painful than hurt and anger, so it’s common for most to reside in this state.
We develop our own distinct set of emotional responses at a young age, and it becomes innate to who we are. For example, some people will withdraw when they are saddened or hurt while others get defensive. Similarly, anger can be expressed through explosive, attacking or defiant behaviors. When numb—being completely resigned to any resolution—some people become complacent or aloof.
Observe your child’s emotional responses during each of these transitional stages. For example, my 3-year-old granddaughter is expressive when she is in her truth, but becomes dismissive when she is hurt.
When you recognize your child is out of sorts, first take a moment for a self check-in. Don’t take their response personally or instantly react. Next, try to identify the situation that could have lead to the reaction. When did you last feel your child was centered? Once you’ve identified that point, ask them something like, “You and I were doing great until _____happened. What made you feel this way?”
Once you’ve determined the event that triggered the response, you can work through the problem and help guide your child back to their state of truth. It’s important however, for you to be in your own state of truth during this process. Otherwise it won’t be productive.
If your child isn’t ready to communicate, don’t force it. It will only pull you out of your center of alignment and drive your child further away. When you honor their need for space, children inevitably come back. Saying, “I’m going to leave you alone and let you feel what you need to feel, but I’m here when you’re ready” will show that you respect their feelings. They will recognize this and come around.
Remember, in every relationship, open and honest communication will re-engage the heartfelt connection. Take time to learn your child’s emotional responses (and your own) to deepen communication and the connection.
Lynn M. Bunch is the founder of The Center for Intuitive Development, an educational center for self-awareness, personal development and spiritual enlightenment. She has two sons and two grandchildren.