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Understanding Your Child's Emotions | The Rejected Parent Newsletter

This newsletter is for parents who are being rejected by their children and those who support them. I will be sending regular newsletters to give suggestions and support to parents dealing with rejection from their children on all levels. I generally support parents whose children are 18 years and under; however, some of this will apply to parents with adult children as well.

Big Emotions 

Children have many strong emotions but may sometimes lack the words to communicate their feelings and needs appropriately. They need to be able to identify and name their feelings because recognizing and understanding them gives them useful information, but they might need help doing so. As with adults, children get stuck when they do not have a way or a place to express their feelings and understand the connection between their thoughts, emotions, and actions. 

Daniel Siegel, M.D. identified a practice he calls “Name it to Tame it.” The idea is that when you identify and say a big feeling out loud, it’s the start of reducing the intensity of that feeling. Also, it can be even more calming if a parent expresses understanding and empathy with an upset child. Understanding another person’s pain and showing empathy builds safety and trust in a relationship.

Children's feelings

A child’s reactions are influenced by their personality and temperament. Children often don’t know how to handle their emotional reactions; they need adults to acknowledge that all feelings are valid and essential. 

Feelings that are negative and positive coexist in everyone. They come and go. This is important for children to understand because it helps them recognize that feeling bad isn’t going to last forever. We all have good and bad days, and one cannot exist without the other.

When children hesitate to be around a parent, it’s not necessarily due to any other adult’s influence. It’s way more complicated than that. However, if a parent emotionally shows up for their child and is open about feelings, this hesitation can ease.

Even within intact families, one of the most common complaints from children, especially teens and young adults, is that their feelings don’t matter. When children don’t think anyone supports them, it can cause them to feel anxious or depressed.

Parents sometimes miss opportunities to respond to our children’s “reaching” to us for support. It’s okay to miss these moments. No parent is perfect, and this will happen from time to time. Life happens, right? That is where circling back around comes into play. Whether it’s been hours, days, weeks, or years, doesn't matter. A parent acknowledging an old hurt they missed can positively impact their child, even if you don’t see the results of it right away. What’s important is that you become more attuned to their needs on a day-to-day basis and show them that you care enough to be there now. Children need to have a “felt sense” of your love and empathy regarding their feelings and perceptions. Reaching your children through their emotions helps.

What can you do next when your child is upset?

  • Listen and reflect back to them what they said.

  • Try to see the situation from their perspective without offering a solution.

  • Listen to understand.

-Cathy Himlin


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