Election Day Jitters? Teach Your Kids About Mixed Emotions

Everyone I have talked to has mentioned they are feeling anxious today. Without getting into politics, I wanted to capture the opportunity to teach our kids about emotions. Particularly, mixed emotions. And nothing captures the look of today for me better than the startled newborn look.

Many of us are feeling “on edge” today. But what exactly does this mean? For me, it means I have lots of feelings:

  • nervous
  • anxious
  • distracted
  • excited
  • unsure
  • peaceful
  • perplexed
  • tense

How can someone feel both excited and nervous? Peaceful and tense? Because emotions are complicated and complex. Oxford Dictionary defines an emotion as “a strong feeling deriving from one’s circumstances, mood, or relationships with others.”According to Wikipedia, “they [emotions] are states of feeling that result in physical and psychological changes that influence our behavior.”

Three things come to mind to take away from today

  • 1. Tune in to your own emotions and honor them
  • 2. Use this as an opportunity to teach your kids about emotions
  • 3. Develop increased empathy for others

Be aware of your own emotions

The more I read and listen about mindfulness and emotional regulation, the more I realize how vital this skill really is. Identifying how I am feeling has enabled me to know when I am more likely to be triggered. Knowing my triggers, and anticipating them, allows me the opportunity to choose my response. I’ve realized I have a much harder time controlling my reactions when I neglect to pay attention to my emotions. My amygdala then treats every impulsive thing my kids do as a lion. Slowly but surely I am retraining my brain to not see every sibling scuffle as a cause for my own fight or flight response.

I am also learning to honor the feelings – all the feelings – that come my way. It’s always been so tempting to try and fight the unpleasant feelings, however, I am trying to embrace them. Taking them at face value for what they are. Feelings. They aren’t “good” or “bad” although they may lean towards more pleasant or unpleasant. Further, I am constantly reminding myself what I tell my kids — feelings come and go.

Teach about emotions

If we want our kids to be better able to articulate how they are feeling, we must model this skill ourselves. We can’t possibly expect our kids to verbalize their emotions if they have no one showing them how to do this. Use today to verbalize your feelings out loud. Saying, “I’m feeling…” and not “I am.” Feelings come and go. They do not define us so be cautious to say “I am anxious.” You might be feeling anxious but anxiety does not solely define who you are.

This is a good chance to broaden our emotional vocabulary. Let your kids know how you are feeling as precisely as you can. Words that might describe how you are feeling today:

  • tired
  • anxious
  • nervous
  • content
  • hopeful
  • terrified
  • excited
  • discouraged
  • baffled
  • uncomfortable
  • distracted

Describe what the emotion feels like. You can list parts of your body that might be impacted and discus other situations in which you might feel that same way. For example when I describe distracted to my young kids, I might say, I’m feeling distracted this afternoon. This means my mind is having a hard time focusing on one thing and my thoughts feel all jumbled! It’s hard for my brain to remember things when I am distracted so I might be more forgetful! I also feel distracted when I am trying to do too many things! Have you ever felt distracted?

Develop empathy for others

Today is a good reminder to have empathy for those around us. When I am having lots of feelings, I hope others will give me grace when I am not my best self. In the same way, I need to show that same compassion and patience for those around me. My kids are still adjusting from Daylight Savings Time and I know they are tired. Today is a good reminder that my kids are human just like me, filled with just as many mixed emotions.

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