Episode 111 Transcript

TRANSCRIPT: Your Parenting Long Game Episode 111 – If You are Raising a Child With Big Emotions…

Hello, it is Rachel and welcome to Episode 111 of Your Parenting Long Game. In this episode, I want to talk directly to you if you are raising a child (or children) with big emotions. I’m almost talking to you parent to parent, because I think you and I are probably going through something similar. 

Let me back up a little bit, though. For my 100th episode, I talked about myself and the fact that I am a highly sensitive person raising two kids, each of whom have big emotions — and their big emotions come out in different ways. 

Ever since that episode, people have been reaching out to me, telling me how much it resonated with them because they are also raising children with big emotions. And it’s funny because every once in a while, parents will ask me what it means to be raising a child with big emotions. 

But, if you are someone who’s raising a child with big emotions, I think you may already know because your big-emotion child may have some of these qualities… or even most of these qualities.

Maybe you’re raising a child with big emotions, and you see that because they are controlling or “strong-willed.” Maybe they get really upset when things don’t go the way they want them to go. 

A big-emotion child may have really big reactions, even to small things. They may seem to go from zero to 60, sometimes without warning and your child may struggle with and resist transitions, going to new places, leaving the house, or going anywhere — even somewhere that they enjoy. And they may be slow to warm when they get to those new places or meet new people. Big-feeling children are often sensitive to textures or noises or lights or foods. 

Similarly, they may be a strong “noticer.” They notice things that maybe we wouldn’t have even recognized. They sense others’ feelings or even animals’ feelings really strongly. Maybe your big-emotion child sometimes has a negative attitude. They’re more of a “glass half empty” type of child.

They may be sensitive to criticism or focusing a lot on what is fair or not fair. They also, though, love hard, and they’re very thoughtful. You know deep down that they’re likely to make a really big, positive difference in the world. And you actually want to know how to get them there.

So if you can relate, I am thinking of you. And I’m thinking of how, as a parent of a big-emotion child, you may actually be exhausted from all of the energy it takes to deal with the ups and the downs of their big feelings combined with everything else you go through on a daily basis. 

It just feels like it’s a lot. You as a parent of a big-emotion child may also have a hard time relaxing because you’re just waiting for that next dramatic moment or the next shoe to drop for when your child gets really upset. 

You may even turn down invitations because you’re not sure how your child’s going to be able to handle it if you get there. You may also be worried that your child won’t be able to handle the fact that things won’t always go their way. (Because you know that things won’t always go their way.)

You may also — if you’re being honest — be resentful at the toll that all of this takes on you and your family and even other relationships you have. And then you may be feeling guilty about that resentment. I’m thinking of you, if you’re going through all of this, and I’m also thinking of your family, because often it may seem like situations are affected by your child’s inflexibility or their big feelings and responses to things.

You may worry that some of your other children aren’t getting as much of your time or attention, which is another thing that you have to worry about. And it may be that your yuck is building and it’s coming out on everyone else in the family, especially because you don’t have the time or energy to take care of yourself. You may also feel like you’re not in control of how things go on a day-to-day basis in your home — that everything depends on how your big-feeling child is doing. 

And I know for all of these reasons and from my experiences as a parent, personally, that raising children with big emotions has unique challenges. As someone who has been a therapist for children, teens, and families with at least one family member with big emotions, I know that we do have to raise our big-feeling children in a certain way if we want them to meet their potential without negatively impacting their self-esteem. And I know we have to raise them in a particular way if we want to foster resilience, so that they can handle the fact that things aren’t always going to go their way, if we want to foster this resilience without breaking their spirit.

I often think about what it’s like for kids with big emotions to be raised by parents who do know how to give them the unique things that they need. And then I also think about the kids with big emotions who are raised by parents who don’t know how to give them what they need. 

So I’ve made a decision that, going forward, I’m going to focus my podcast and my practice on helping parents of children with big emotions create their parenting long game. Not only so that children can meet their potential, but also so that you, as a parent, can feel less worried, less exhausted and more confident in your parenting journey, so that your family is not dominated by one or more big-feeling children.

I don’t want you to all feel like in the family that you have to walk on eggshells. And I don’t want you to have experiences that are dictated by the mood of one or two family members. Believe it or not, if you do have a big-emotion child, they don’t want everything to be dictated by their mood either. 

I also want to make sure that as a parent of a child with big emotions, your exhaustion, worry, and resentment don’t impact your relationships: your relationship with your other children or your relationship with your spouse, as you may be fighting over the best way to handle situations. I also want to make sure it doesn’t impact your relationship with yourself as you struggle to find time to take care of yourself as well. 

Now don’t worry. I will still be addressing many of the same topics I have been on the podcast all along. I’ll still be teaching you what you need to raise responsible, resilient children. I’ll just be focusing on doing this with children who tend to feel more strongly, be more anxious, be more strong-willed and more dramatic in their responses. 

So going forward, I’m going to talk to you not only about what is truly going on for your big-emotion child, but I’m also going to talk to you about how you can set yourself up for success and how you can set up your entire family for success. I’m going to be breaking down some huge misconceptions about the behaviors, moods, and attitudes of big-emotion kids. 

For example, I’m going to tell you, even in the next few episodes, why your “dramatic child” isn’t actually being dramatic. I’m going to tell you what’s up with the self-centeredness of big-emotion children (or what appears to be self-centeredness). I’m going to talk about when punishments and consequences don’t work with big-emotion children — why this is and what to do instead. And I’m also going to talk about how to address the disrespect that your big-emotion child may be expressing when they’re really upset. 

In the meantime — you know me — I am action oriented. I’m actually going to teach you something now and recommend an action to take as you raise your child with big emotions or children with big emotions. 

What I want you to know is that one of the most important things you can do, if you’re raising big-feeling children, is to try to understand them and to help them understand themselves. 

You will learn a lot more about this in the upcoming episodes, but for now, keep this in mind: big-feeling children don’t necessarily want to be bossy or anxious or controlling or dramatic.

They don’t like feeling and acting the way they do. Often they wonder why they feel the things that they do more strongly than others, why they behave the way they behave, and it makes them question, doubt, and even dislike themselves. 

To foster both healthy self-esteem and resilience, we need to help them recognize that they’re not “crazy.” (And I actually use that word only because when I was a therapist for kids and teens and even adults with big emotions, I heard them call themselves crazy.) We need to help them recognize that they’re not crazy and help them understand how they feel and why. Their understanding of how they feel and why is actually the beginning of healthy self-esteem and resilience. And when we understand how they feel and why, we can be more patient with them and more supportive of them, rather than adding to their internal message that something is wrong with them. 

So here is my action. I want you to choose one situation, where maybe, in the past, you haven’t really understood what was going on for them. Instead, you’ve really tried to change their behavior or mood or attitude. 

Take that situation, and truly try to get into their shoes. See the situation from their perspective. I don’t want you to see their perspective from your perspective. I want you to see it completely from their perspective. 

Some of you have heard me talk about the chapter exercise. This is based on those books that you read, where every chapter is told from the point of view of a different character. You may have one situation, and you’re hearing it in different chapters from different points of view. 

I want you to do this with the situation you’ve chosen. You can certainly start with your chapter — take this scenario, what was it like for you? And then I want you to move to the next chapter. Get out of your world, and tell their chapter — really talk about or think about what it was like to walk in their shoes.

I will tell you that as you listen to the upcoming episodes, as I address some of the misconceptions about big-emotion kids, this will become easier and easier. But for right now, I really just want you to take a stab at it. That’s the place to start. Because when you understand your big-emotion child’s feelings, you can help them handle these feelings instead of fearing them or resisting them, which actually (believe it or not) makes big emotions worse. 

And when you understand your child, how they’re feeling and why, you’ll feel a lot less resentful and exhausted. When you understand your child, how they’re feeling and why, those big emotions won’t rule them, they won’t rule you, and they won’t rule your family. 

So I look forward to supporting you in your parenting long game as you raise your big-emotion children. The tips I’m going to tell you are going to impact not only your child, but also you and your family. 

I look forward to seeing you soon in the next episode. Take care.

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