Feeling your Feelings: A Parent’s Story

Let’s talk about being a parent.

As a parent, it’s sort of a double challenge, right? We need to recognize and deal with our own feelings, and we need to do the same with our kids’ big feelings. I have always envisioned myself as a calm person who would go with the flow and could regulate her emotions easily. After having kids, I realized it differed ‌from what I had pictured in my head. So, with that being said, let me take you on my journey that changed how I would feel my feelings.

As my son was getting bigger, so did his emotions. At that time in my parenting journey, I went right to solving the problem. I didn’t give him the chance to process his emotions, and I was looking for a solution. However, I realized after much soul searching that we don’t always want to take a child’s discomfort away. We all, young and older, have to learn how to handle the discomfort that comes with feeling our feelings. This was an important lesson for me to learn.

With his big feelings came my ‌own set of big feelings and a new challenge of how to navigate them. However, when I learned to sit in my own feelings and notice what my triggers were (loud noises, sensory overload, constantly being touched), it changed the game entirely.

It was not until I observed my feelings and emotions that I knew I could support him differently. In this process, I also learned what I needed for myself. I noticed I wanted to fix the situation because I was uncomfortable feeling my feelings. When my emotions were triggered, I could feel that uncomfortable, tense feeling in my body, and I wanted it to go away. I needed to lean into awareness and away from avoiding what I was feeling. When I did this, I could be in a calm state. When I was calm, it was easier for him to learn that skill. Even when it was hard, I could better model ‌strategies for him.

To help myself work through some of my big feelings and return to a calm state, I would take deep breaths, exercise, take a walk and take a minute to myself to process my feelings. I needed to do this before I could help support him.

What I learned was not the cool tools or hacks, it wasn’t a magical visual schedule or a new reward system (although those things are immensely helpful). It was to observe how I was feeling, learn how to regulate my own emotions, and be present in the moment.

Being present in the moment is hard, and it is still a work in progress. You are a parent. You are busy running around, being pulled in all different directions at once. Being a parent forces you to grow, and learn patience and unconditional love, but it’s still hard.

My son is still building these skills. Children’s brains are not fully developed until they are in their mid-20s. They are learning how to manage their emotions when they are angry, scared, and happy. So as a parent I think about modeling the positive things to help him in the long term. This has really changed our relationship and how we look at each other’s emotions.

Kelly Thorell

Kelly Thorell, PCAC

ADHD Coach and Life Coach, Executive Skills Coach

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