Friday, January 28, 2022

So is your family a “Feelings Family”? In order to understand this term, let’s consider the following example:

Mrs. Jones: Sam, how was your day today?

Sam: It was good, but I have a ton of homework. I am also really having a hard time managing all of this work. I really don’t want to do any of it!

Mrs. Jones: I know that you don’t want to do it, but you have to, to keep up your good grades. Let’s sit down, make a schedule, and everything will be okay!

No one would argue with how Mrs. Jones responded to her son. She validated her son’s feelings, provided warmth and understanding and helped him to plan out his night so Sam could accomplish his work. Mrs. Jones joined with Sam so that Sam would not feel alone in his struggles.

However, let’s say that this same issue continues over a period of two weeks, where Sam continuously comes home from school with the same problem and Mrs. Jones provided similar ideas for how to help him. The problem is that Sam is becoming more argumentative and avoids doing his homework. His assignments pile up leading to more “morning meltdowns.” (Has anyone had any of those?) Is there anything else that Sam’s mother can do?

Research shows that there is another important component for helping our children deal with stressful situations. This relates to how willing parents are to share their own experiences with their children. While the particular issue needs to be appropriate for a particular age, in our issue cited above, it can be very helpful for Sam to know about his mother’s Middle School experience and how she dealt with particular challenges. Sharing this information with your child helps him feel that you are more connected to his experience. It is not just your words, but it is now your life experience that you are sharing with your child.

So our children can benefit greatly from parents sharing their feelings related to stressful situations and other difficult challenges. As parents, we need to look for specific moments where we can share things related to our childhood, our adolescence, our college experiences, and things beyond. Sharing the particular events can also be accompanied by the feelings associated with the event, who we spoke to for advice and guidance, and how we were able to work through the challenge. All of these components are important to develop a “Feelings Family.” And if this is something new for you, give it a shot! Try sharing with your child about something in your day that was particularly challenging, stressful, or difficult. Be honest about your feelings and some of the uncertainty that you may have felt! The long-term benefits can be extremely significant!

Mark Staum, LCSW, is the school therapist for the PTACH program @ MTA and maintains a local private practice in Teaneck, NJ. He specializes in working with children, adolescents, and families. For questions about this article or to speak directly with Mark, please contact him at [email protected]

By Mark Staum, LCSW

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