Help Your Son Develop Healthy Emotions
- 2009 31 Aug
I have an eleven-year-old son which, for some reason, immediately conjures up the phrase no man's land. There's just something about an eleven-year-old boy that seems so in-between. He wants to be a man, he wants to play football, he wants me to teach him how to drive in parking lots. And yet, he's scared to start middle school (okay, I don't care what age you are, any one would be scared to start middle school), he still tenderly holds my hand when we're alone, and he doesn't know what to do with his feelings.
The other day we were driving around and I asked him about school starting…how do you feel about it, bud? Not good, he said. What about it is not good, I asked. I don't know, he replied.
Okay then. Glad we had this heart to heart, I'm thinking.
This all-too-familiar exchange with him…me asking questions, him answering in less than a handful of monosyllabic words…made me think back to something a guy friend said to me years ago. I was asking him what he felt about something and he said, without batting an eye and in all honesty, "If I ever figure out what I feel about something, I'll tell you."
I have never forgotten that one line. Probably because I couldn't relate in the least. I'm the kind of girl who knows what I'm feeling. I'm the kind of girl who can name what I'm feeling, even if it's seventeen feelings all at once. And I can tell you to what degree and in order of priority. I'm the kind of girl who journals about her feelings and, for the most part, knows how to express them. Whether anyone else in my immediate world wants me to or not. I get feelings. I love feelings.
As a mom, I believe it's my responsibility to send my kids out into the world knowing what they feel about something and how to express it in a healthy way. To realize that my son, if left to his own devices, would grow up like my guy friend and have no idea what he is ever feeling, let alone how to express it, was just unacceptable to me.
So when we got home, I sat down at my computer and wrote up a list of six common feelings, along with their definitions, a list of synonyms, how to know when that's what you're feeling, and how to express that feeling in a healthy way. And that list was our bedtime story that night. It went so well, that he even asked me to "go over that one again" because I apparently struck a chord with one of them. That list is taped next to his bed. That list, I hope, is just the beginning of many good conversations as I prepare my son for the world.
And, future daughter-in-law, you're very welcome.
Here, by the way, is my list…feel free to use it, add to it, whatever…
Definition: in high spirits; satisfied
When you might feel this: When you get your way, when God answers a prayer, when you get a gift, when you do well on a test, when you get to do something fun…
How can you know this is what you're feeling? You smile, laugh, feel good inside, want to keep feeling that way
What can you do to express this feeling in a healthy way? Laugh, thank Jesus, thank the person who helped you feel this way, you can look up a verse about being happy (Psalms 68:3)
Definition: being mad, often extremely mad
When you might feel this: when someone irritates you, takes a toy away, turns the channel when you don't want them to, interrupts you, makes you do something you don't want to do or at a time you don't want to do it
How can you know this is what you're feeling? You might get hot, you might want to kick or punch something, you want to yell
What can you do to express this feeling in a healthy way? Quietly tell the person that you're angry and why, tell Jesus about it and ask him to help you handle your anger well, talk to your Mom or Dad about it, journal about it, punch your pillow, count to ten, breathe deeply for a few moments, take a quick walk up and down the driveway, go play basketball, you can look up a verse about what God wants us to do about our anger (Ephesians 4:26)
How you shouldn't express this feeling: Yell at the person, yell at someone else, slam doors, be disrespectful, hurt someone or yourself, keep it to yourself
Sad Definition: unhappy, depressed
When you might feel this: when someone says something that hurts your feelings, when you're left out at school, when you don't do well on a test or in a game, when you miss someone, when someone breaks a promise
How can you know this is what you're feeling? You may cry, may feel tired, may not want to talk to anyone, you may want to be left alone
What can you do to express this feeling in a healthy way? You can talk to Jesus and ask him to help you feel better, you can talk to your Mom or Dad, you can journal about it, you can spend some time alone in your room or doing something by yourself, you can lie down for a little while, you can cry, you can make a list of five things you're thankful for, you can look up a verse about being sad (Psalms 42:11)
When you might feel this: during a thunderstorm, doing something that is a phobia
How can you know this is what you're feeling? You might feel butterflies in your stomach, you might feel hot, your hands might get sweaty, you might have trouble sleeping or concentrating
What can you do to express this feeling in a healthy way? You can tell someone that you're scared, tell Jesus and ask him to make you more brave, journal about it, hold someone's hand, you can look up a verse about Jesus being with you when you're scared (Joshua 10:25)
Lonely Definition: feeling friendless
When you might feel this: when you're on the bus and not sitting next to anyone, when you don't know anyone in your class or at lunch, when you don't know anyone in a new sports team or club, when one or both of your parents are out of town, or when you're out of town
How can you know this is what you're feeling? You feel like you're missing someone
What can you do to express this feeling in a healthy way? You can call, email or write the person you're missing, you can tell Jesus about it and ask him to remind you that He's with you, you can journal about it, you can look up a verse about Jesus being your friend (1 John 4:11)
Definition: anxious, troubled, don't know what to think about something, don't understand something
When you might feel this: when you hear your parents' fight, when you're left home alone
How can you know this is what you're feeling? You might feel butterflies in your stomach, you might imagine things to turn out badly (for instance, you might think that if your parents' fight, it might mean they'll get a divorce)
What can you do to express this feeling in a healthy way? You can talk to Jesus about this, you can talk to your Mom or Dad about this, you can journal about this, you can list off five things you're thankful for, you can look up a verse about worrying (Matthew 6:34)
August 31, 2009
(c) Elisabeth K. Corcoran, 2009
Elisabeth lives her with husband and children in Illinois. She is the author of the devotionals, In Search of Calm: Renewal for a Mother's Heart (Xulon), Calm in My Chaos: Encouragement for a Mom's Weary Soul (Kregel), and is excited to announce the fall release of He Is Just That Into You: Stories of a Faithful God who Pursues, Engages, and Has No Fear of Commitment (WinePress). After ten years of leading Women's Ministry and four years on staff at Christ Community Church - Blackberry Creek Campus over Adult Ministry and Community & International Impact, she is now devoting her time to speaking and writing. Her passion is to encourage women and the Church, and applying her gifts to eradicating local and global AIDS. You can learn more about Elisabeth at www.elisabethcorcoran.com or at http://elisabethcorcoran.blogspot.com/, and you can follow her on Twitter at ekcorcoran.