Letting go of unwanted feelings

As parents, most of us spend a lot of time helping our children learn to deal with intense feelings such as anger and sadness. When children are really small they simply let it all out. But as they get older they start to become more self conscious and it becomes important for us to help them understand where their feelings are coming from, and how to move through them without fear or judgement.

In this series of blogs I will share tips and exercises to do with your child to help them:

  • Let go of anger and frustration
  • Accept their feelings as a normal part of life
  • Understand where their feelings are coming from

In an ideal world we would have hours to spend with our child, teaching and helping them learn to understand strong emotions. But the reality is we live in a busy world, and often do not have time to stop when our child has a temper tantrum or a meltdown. Often this can lead to children learning to stuff intense feelings deep inside where they fester; and at some point in the future cause problems.

As we all know, during an average day we can feel a whole range of emotions from anger and frustration, to joy and peace. Children are no different. How they learn to move through the range largely depends on how they see others around them deal with emotions, and what we, as their parents and teachers, show them.

Below are two simple techniques to do with your child either at the end of the day, or anytime that you feel your child needs it, to help them understand their feelings better, and learn how to move through them. I use both with my daughter, and see very positive results. I also teach them to clients, and use them myself.

They are fun, creative, and therapeutic!

Pulling out

This is a technique that is useful to do at the end of the day before going to bed. When you are both relaxed, talk to your child about their day. Ask if anything happened that caused them to feel anger, fear, sadness, or similar. For example when they didn’t get something they wanted, or when another child did or said something they didn’t like. Ask your child where they felt the feelings in their body. Was it in their chest? Head? Then, ask them if they would like to let the feelings go.

If they say yes, you can encourage them to first of all thank the feelings for what they taught them, as it is important children learn not to judge feelings as ‘good’ or ‘bad.’

Following on from that, pretend to pull the feelings out of your child’s body, and throw them away.

This can be done in several ways. You can pretend to pull a string, perhaps cup your hands and gently lift the feelings out. Whatever works for you and your child.

What I do with my daughter is pretend to throw them out of the window and encourage her to help me. She absolutely loves this!

Children are so enthusiastic and imaginative – this can be a really fun and positive game for them. You may find they label their feelings according to things they perceive as ‘yucky.’ For example my daughter will often say she has zombie feelings, or monsters, or even poop! It is very empowering for them to realise they can let them go.

This exercise can also prompt your child to talk about interactions they have had with other children or adults, that have worried or stressed them in some way. 

Once your child has let go of all unwanted feelings, (note – sometimes you have to end it, as often they will enjoy the process so much they would be pulling bad stuff out all night given the chance!) it is good to download happy, peaceful feelings.

Place your hand on your child’s chest, or top of their head, and ask if they would like to download happy, peaceful, and joyful feelings.

If they say yes, you can say ‘we are now downloading happy, peaceful and joyful feelings all through (name) body, so he/she has a beautiful and peaceful night’s sleep.

If for some reason they say they don’t want you to download happy ones, I suggest seeing if they will tell you why. If they won’t, don’t push it. Allow them to be in charge, as this empowers them. You will probably find after doing the exercise a few times they will get the hang of it, and be happy to download positive feelings afterwards.

Balloons

This exercise is very similar to the pulling out exercise described above, but instead of pulling the feelings out of the body, your child blows the feelings he/she wants to release in to an imaginary balloon. Once they are in the balloon, encourage your child to let the balloon go. This is the fun part – encouraging your child to imagine a balloon of unwanted feelings spiralling round the room, just as a real untied balloon would.

Once the letting go is complete, you can imagine a selection of balloons filled with happiness, joy, peace, or similar. Ask your child which balloon they wold like to hold, and once they have decided, have them imagine breathing the feeling into their body.

Have fun!

The idea behind these exercises is to help your child feel more comfortable talking about and understanding their inner world. Done regularly these exercises help your child understand that they are able to choose whether they hang on to unwanted feelings or not. They learn to identify feelings more clearly, and also start to recognise situations and events that trigger certain reactions for them. This is a vital part of their development and self understanding.

I hope you find these useful – I’d love to hear about your experiences doing them with your child or children!

Belinda Bennetts is a holistic life coach, therapist and author. Find her at www.belindabennetts.co.uk