Last week was hard…
If you are a mum, you will know that one of the most challenging things in life is navigating your teen’s strong emotions. And I had one of those weeks.
Have you ever experienced this? I am sure you have…
A week that is a continuous emotional rollercoaster…
One emotional outburst after another.
A week where all that you can do as a mum is strap yourself in and hang on for dear life, hoping that you and your teen will all get out the other end in one piece!
Why your teen’s emotions so challenging for you as a mother?
Firstly, your teen’s emotions can be incredibly triggering.
In his short instructional video on the hand model of the brain, Dr Daniel Siegel, explains how the neo-cortex of the brain (the rational thinking bit) disengages from the limbic system during an emotional upheaval. He calls this “flipping your lid”. When we “flip our lid” we lose the ability to think objectively due to the stimulation of our amygdala which controls our fight, flight or freeze reactions. When two people are in conversation with each other and one person “flips their lid” it can very easily trigger the other person to flip theirs too. I am sure that you have experienced these many times.
You can access this short video HERE.
Secondly, no mother (or parent for that matter) likes to see their child, upset or in emotional distress. This can be emotionally challenging for parents on so many levels.
Here are some of the reasons why this could be difficult for you:
Your teen’s emotions can activate an unhealed wound in you
We all carry around unresolved hurt and wound to our Maiden, from our experiences in the past. Many of these unhealed wounds happened to us when we were a child or a teen. When you witness your child struggling with a similar experience this can cause you to relive your past experience as if it is happening to you all over again.
Your teen’s emotions can trigger your emotions about emotions
Another wounding to our Maiden is how we were taught to deal with emotions or your meta-emotions philosophy. This is an example of a “mother wound”, generational conditioning or trauma that has been passed down to us by our mother and the mothers before her.
Think back to how your mother dealt with emotions such as fear, anger, sadness, anxiety?
How has this influenced how you respond to your own child’s emotions?
Your child’s experience of these emotions is an opportunity to heal this wound for yourself so that you don’t pass this to your daughters and sons.
Your teen’s emotions can set off your feelings of inadequacy as a parent
When we see how upset our child is, this can cause us to feel as if this is somehow our fault. This can trigger your emotions of shame and thoughts that you are somehow “not good enough” as a parent.
This is yet another “mother wound” and a shadow of the Mother Archetype. The wounded mother feels the need to fix, control and take everyone else’s problems on as if they are her own.
Let me get something straight here.
- As a mother, it is not your job to fix all your children’s problems – it is impossible!
- Emotions (even hard ones) are part of the human experience. Emotions are merely information about our needs.
- Experiencing emotions will not harm your child.
- Your child’s emotional outburst does not make you a bad parent.
The temptation to “fix”
I know that I am not alone in this, it is a very natural thing for us as Mums to want to solve problems, or to “fix things” for our children. For many of us, this sense of helplessness can set off our own emotions of frustration, anxiety, fear, shame and even anger.
My magical powers of being able to “kiss it better” left along with my daughters’ belief in the tooth fairy.
I can’t solve my seventeen-year-old daughter’s anxiety about what a post-Covid world will look like. Or her fear about the melting of the polar ice caps and global warming.
I can’t go to my thirteen-year-old daughter’s school and stop the other kids from picking on her.
All of this sucks!
What I have learnt during my parenting journey, and my research as a teacher is that if we head straight for the “solve” this can actually communicate to our children that we are dismissing or minimising their emotional experience. This can lead them to believe that we don’t understand them or even that we don’t care.
What to do instead?
One thing that I have learnt over the years is the importance of empathy – to be able to relate to another’s emotional experience.
Often, we forget that we have a different perspective of life from our children. We are a product of our experiences, and my forty-six years of experience can cause me to see the world quite differently from my teenage daughters. Things that might be trivial to me can seem like the end of the world to them.
The key thing here is to try to relate to the emotional experience.
Ask yourself, “what would be a similar experience in my own life?” and then use this emotional context to relate to your child. Important point: Do not relate this experience to your teen and make this moment all about you. Use this experience as an opportunity to locate your emotional perspective.
Acknowledge and validate your teen’s emotions
All feelings are valid and okay, and it is important that you communicate this to your teen. (When we make emotions bad this causes our children to believe that there are parts of them that are bad and unlovable.)
You may not agree with your child’s point of view or behaviour but focus on the emotions – all emotions are normal, healthy, and okay.
I know that this is challenging. We don’t tend to do very well at acknowledging emotions.
Most of us can’t even do this for ourselves and so doing this for others can seem unnatural. We may fear that our teens will “milk” the situation or make this period of discomfort last longer if we acknowledge the emotion they are feeling. You may feel tempted to distract them from what they are feeling, change the subject, reassure them or tell them how grateful they should be, as you have been led to believe that this will move them out of what they are going through quicker.
However, when you practise empathy and validate emotions you communicate that you understand what your child is going through and that you get them. This allows them to recover more quickly from emotional upheaval.
We either spend the time meeting our children’s emotional needs by filling their cup with love or we spend time dealing with the behaviours from their unmet needs. Either way we spend the time.Pam Leo
Having empathy for your child’s emotions ultimately allows you to build a stronger connection with them. These interactions and connections create a secure foundation that allows them to develop important emotional intelligence and resilience skills.
Holding space and sitting with emotions
One of the most challenging parts of this approach for me has been learning to “hold space” for my daughters and to support them to sit with their emotions.
I am a recovering “fixer” so this approach can at times feel like I’m not “doing” anything.
Holding space means that we are willing to simply be there with another person in whatever they are feeling without judging them, making them feel inadequate, trying to fix them, or trying to impact the outcome.
This means curbing comments, withholding sage advice, and our need to rescue them from their feelings. When we hold space for our children, we open our hearts, offer unconditional support, and let go of judgement and control.Tanya Valentin
Sometimes holding space looks a lot like “sitting on your hands”, zipping your lip, controlling your breathing and keeping your own lid down while your child loses theirs.
Not easy – it takes practice!
However, if you can sit through the discomfort here is what you will have conveyed to your child:
- I’ve got you! Even though your world feels out of control and overwhelming, you can rely on me to be your safety in this storm.
- As horrible as these emotions feel they will pass – let me sit with you until they do.
- I will listen to you without judgement – I love you without limit, even your dark, your sad, your angry.
- All parts of you are accepted and loved by me.
Taking care of the mother
One closing consideration and yet another “mother wound” is our tendency as mums to lack boundaries and to over-give until we become completely “selfless”.
During times of the heightened emotions of our children, we can become so consumed by what they are going through and so preoccupied with being there for them that we can forget to take care of ourselves.
When we are under the influence of the “Selfless Mother” archetype we can easily empty our own cup trying to fill the cup of others. Our “empty” selves can become resentful and just one trigger away for a “flipped lid”.
This depletion of our reserves makes it difficult for us to empathise, validate feelings and hold space for our children and we are way more likely to reach for the “fix”.
Remember – Good self-care equals an engaged lid.
So, what can you do to ensure that you are meeting your own needs?
If you would like some simple self-care hacks that will help you to stay sane click HERE for my FREE PDF.
As a Midlife Mentor for Women I support Soul-Led, Midlife Women who are on an awakening journey, to reconnect with, love and trust the woman behind the roles, the responsibilities and the weight of the expectations of others.
I help you to unlearn the beliefs, behaviours and stories that no longer serve you so that you can live the next half of your life in a way feels true to who you authentically are as the Queen of your own life!
Do you want more tools to heal your Mother Wound?
Buy My Book When She Wakes She Will Move Mountains – 5 Steps to Reconnecting With Your Wild Authentic Inner Queen.