Some thoughts inspired by this fantastic episode from the Journeywomen Podcast. This Episode is so so good. I had no clue how positive and important emotions are until I was 18, severely depressed, and suicidal because I felt guilty for every emotion I felt. I felt like my “neediness” was a terrible thing and no one would ever love me and accept me because of my emotional dysfunction. Then I found a church that took such good care of me, helped me through my first round of therapy, and taught me the side of Christianity I’d always missed- the deep and profound effect of healthy emotions, reflecting the emotions of God Himself. Now as a wife I’m still learning how to function well (and heal from the past) in light of my marriage, but even more so as a Mom, it’s so important to me to learn how to help my children discover their emotional side and how healthy emotions can bring such beauty to a hard life in a hard world.
One thing I found incredible to learn is how a child has all the emotions of an adult, but next to none of the logical brain development until after age 10-12. Which is why the early childhood is crucial for empathy and compassion before times of training and teaching.
How you respond to their emotions as a small child has a profound effect on how they expect you to react when they’re in high school and dealing with far more serious things. It will determine whether they feel safe to approach you later. It will determine whether they feel safe even with themselves.
If I’m an adult with a functioning logical side to my brain, and I STILL have a hard time understanding and controlling my emotions, how on earth do I think I get to expect my toddler to process logically having to go to sleep after a fun day, or having to say no to a piece of candy, or how to put away the toys she’s having such fun with when it comes time to clean up.
I’m not saying you don’t train them to do those things anyway. But it has to start with empathy and compassion- teaching them a language for their emotions so that they can tell the truth about where they are. If they can tell the truth (“I’m sad” or “I’m angry” or “I’m frustrated”) then they can learn how to grieve what’s broken so that after validating that they can move on to really living honestly in a broken world, and so learning how to live fully.
Emotions are crucial to all sides of personal health, and emotions are crucial to relationship with God.
And this is why professional counselors/therapists are so important to have access to. I think phases of professional counseling will be a prerequisite for all my kids during their middle and high school years.