Regardless of age, life is a continuous stream of choices. Whether you are six or 60, the choices are endless. Choices call for practical solutions, but for many of us, these practical issues are often complicated by emotions.
Most of us possess the ability to choose our emotions, and how we feel can affect our judgment and influence our actions. To understand feelings and subsequent actions, we need to know where feelings come from and how they can affect our actions.
Lacking this understanding, can mean we just accept that the way we feel is the way we feel, and we can't do much about it. But believing that we can't influence the way we feel, can often rob us of the persistence required to succeed whenever the going gets tough.
Very often it's our feelings that get in the way of achieving our goals. We take our emotions for granted and virtually never think about how we feel until things go wrong or right. Being human, we can tend to see the causes of our feelings in other people and situations, and rarely stop to think that we have anything to do with the way we feel.
But the ability to control our emotions is a skill that can be learned and the sooner we can learn to be responsible for our feelings, the sooner we can get them to work for, rather than against, us.
It is important, as parents, carers and educators, that we give ourselves and our children the opportunity to:
Feelings happen inside our bodies and our bodies are constantly busy receiving messages.
So, the causes of our feelings are our thoughts and beliefs. These can be about what someone says or does, or about a situation we're in.
Given that thoughts cause how we feel, thoughts can be divided into two categories - rational and irrational.
So why do we have them? Most often because we choose to.
The ABC of thinking is known as the think-feel-do connection.
A: is the activating event or situation that we incorrectly believe is causing us to feel disturbed
B: the beliefs we may have about this situation
C: the emotional consequence or feeling we experience as a result of the belief.
Once we can identify and learn how to change irrational beliefs, then negative emotions will become significantly less frequent and will be of a lesser duration (as will self-defeating behaviour).
As thoughts are directly tied to feelings and subsequent behaviour, it makes sense that parents, carers and educators attend to the thinking styles of children. All new learning requires practice before it becomes second nature.
The more we demonstrate rational thinking statements and behaviour to our child/children, the more likely they will adopt this style of thinking, behaving and expressing themselves.
The earlier a child discovers that they have control over their feelings, the less likely it is that negative, established habits will need to be reversed and the more llikely that he/she will increase the opportunity to achieve their full potential.
It's important to encourage children to express their emotions. It's equally important not to be dismissive (even if unintentionally) when they do so.
Encourage your child to tell you how she feels without dismissing her concerns. When a child tells you how she's feeling she is not asking you if you think her feeling is sensible or even appropriate. All she's saying is, "This is how I feel".
Helpful, encouraging responses could be something like, "I'm sorry you feel so angry", or "It's sad that you feel left out". In this way a child knows she's been heard and understood, which can be somewhat of a relief in itself.
Comments like these are not dismissive and won't discourage her. Nor does it mean that you, the adult, offer an opinion about how valid her feelings might be.
Ask your child how he feels about a range of situations. Encourage him to use descriptive words other than 'good', 'bad', or 'ok'.
Let your child know that she has been heard and understood in a positive way.
For more on developing an emotional vocabulary: The A-Z of feeling words
Help your child to brainstorm different emotions. For younger children, prepare a list of emotions, mixed together with other nouns. Children then have to put ticks next to the emotions or 'feeling' words, e.g. sad, happy etc.
Defining emotions: Ask your child the meaning of different emotions, e.g. what does 'sad' mean? If your child can't express her answer in words, encourage her to draw a picture, for example a smiley face, a sad face.
Ask him to think of a situation that may make him sad. If he has difficulty, give an example: "Well, I'd feel sad if......"
Coloured paper: This activity requires two children, so you could try this activity with your child and a friend or your children. Use coloured pieces of paper with the names of emotions. Ask one child to act out the emotion named on the card, while the other child tries to guess. Using the coloured pieces of paper, ask each child, "Who has felt like this recently? What was happening at the time?"
Relating or painting: Encourage your child to make up short stories about different emotions or perhaps paint a picture or just use colours to convey emotions.
Source: Mind Your Mind - How to master your thoughts and feelings and be happy (Julie Johansen/Leigh Hay) Australian Scholarships Group (reprinted 2003).
The teaching of positive attitudes and foundations for achievement is now being taken up by many schools as educators recognise that social-emotional competencies rank alongside academic ability.
One school and parent-based program currently focusing on foundations for achievement and social-emotional well-being is You Can Do It! Education. Implemented by thousands of schools around Australia and New Zealand, You Can Do It! Education (authored by Dr. Michael Bernard) is a capability-building framework that provides children with the foundations for achievement and social-emotional well-being.
For more information on You Can Do It! Education resources: www.youcandoit.com.au