“I just want them to be happy.”

How often have you heard this? Better yet, how often have you thought it?

We dream of giving our children the best possible childhood, and our hopes for their happiness are so well-intentioned. And when we have good intentions, when we know our actions are coming from a good place, we tend to set aside introspection and reflective thought.

Let’s really think about this for a moment, though.

Let’s think about the stress we feel when our children struggle, the pain we feel when they are in pain, and how much their sorrow flows into our own. How much harder are we making it on ourselves by trying to create a happy life for our children?

Let’s think about what happens when we try to ensure their happiness. Maybe we try to safe-guard their innocence and create an idyllic, child-centered world. Maybe we try to create opportunities for them to experience joy. Maybe we hover and protect, as though by being there we can keep suffering at bay a little longer.

None of this is inherently wrong, but sometimes we feel discouraged when our children are unhappy despite all of our efforts. We use their happiness as a measure of our parenting, and we feel like we are failing if happiness eludes them.

Happiness is only one emotion.

As humans, we were built to experience a full spectrum of emotions. When we prioritize happiness above all else, for ourselves or our children, we risk teaching our children to repress their negative emotions. Maybe this happens through modeling, maybe they get the message directly from us. Either way, they get the message. Happiness is valued, and anger, sorrow, grief, frustration or any other “negative” emotion is best kept to oneself. 

If we want to raise children with emotional intelligence and awareness who know how to be in relationship with others, we’ve got to get comfortable with the full spectrum of emotions and meet our children where they in a given moment without judgment and without discomfort. More often than not, that means that we’ve got to dig deep within ourselves and start allowing all of our own emotions instead of pushing the uncomfortable ones away. We have to lean in and do the work ourselves before we can truly hold space for the emotions of others.

Identifying emotional overwhelm

For many Highly Sensitive Children, internalized emotions can be a big contributing factor when it comes to challenging behaviors. Carrying an emotion that you don’t feel comfortable expressing or don’t really know how to express can push any of us into overwhelm very quickly. Check out my free guide to overstimulation to learn more. Enter your email address below and I’ll send it your way!

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