28Sat

Parent series: are you parenting a super-feeler?

Does your kid “feel too much, too quick, and too soon?’ Is your teen a highly sensitive teen? If so, you know that parenting highly sensitive teens can feel like an emotional rollercoaster.

You feel stressed out, impatient, angry, frustrated, powerless, or disappointed, to name a few emotions. It’s understandable and natural, because parenting is not easy, and parenting a super-feeler required specialized skills, You feel what you feel, and it makes sense; Yet, letting these emotions dictate your parenting behavior,  make a situation more challenging for you, because then you end up calming fire after fire, like an emotional firefighter.

Understanding ourselves helps us to parent our teens

Historically, we’re socialized to see emotions as good or bad, or right or wrong, We aim to maximize the positive emotions, and minimize the bad ones. However, seeing feelings as good or bad is just another judgment thought; and here is the caveat: the more we try to avoid negative feelings, the more intense they become.

Emotions are important to inform us about a situation in our environment, to let us know what’s happening with us, what’s important to us, and fundamentally to survive. But if you let our emotions completely guide your parenting behavior, you may not be responding in the best way for your highly sensitive teen.

Do you go through an emotional rollercoaster when parenting your teen? If so, here is what to do: notice your emotion, name it (instead of judging it), and then find out what is this feeling is asking you to do. As simple as it sounds, this is a core skill and the more you do it, the better it gets.

Seeing feelings as good or bad is just another judgment thought Click To Tweet

Because the emotional rollercoaster takes you up and down, left and right and in all directions, it’s very important to notice the different go-to emotion management strategies you have learned to rely on when parenting your teen.  These go-to strategies can take different forms, but they all have the same purpose: to manage your emotional struggle and avoid any discomfort you may go through when parenting.

See below if one or more of these go-to emotion management strategies apply to you in your role as parent.

The Disconnector:
If you use this strategy, it’s likely that when you have an intense emotion you try to get up and leave or avoid the situation at hand that’s triggering it. For example, if your child is criticizing you about a gift you gave them, you might just get up and walk out of the room without saying anything.

The Pusher:
When relying on this strategy, you push away any uncomfortable emotion immediately, right away and as quick as possible. For instance, when feeling overwhelmed you may use different substances like food, alcohol, or prescription medication to numb yourself of your emotional struggle. This can help tamp down the intense emotional reaction in the short-term, but it rarely helps in the long-term.

The Distracter:
Are you relying on any activity to distract yourself from the uncomfortable feelings that arise when parenting? For instance, do you scroll through Facebook for hours, or watch TV every night without talking to anyone?

The Externalizer:
When using this go-to emotional management strategy you explain your intense emotions by focusing exclusively on your teen’s behavior as the source of your struggle. The challenge with this go-to response is that you are not looking at your own emotional experience, and how that experience is driving your parenting behavior.

The Surrenderer:
This strategy means you “give in” to whatever the emotion tells you to do. For example, If you feel powerless you might just go along with whatever your teen requests. Or if you’re feeling angry, you might scream and yell at your teen. In both example, you go along with the emotion and let it guide your parenting.

We all  handle our emotions in one way or another, but if you use these go-to management strategies rigidly, over and over, 24/7, they quickly turn into control and avoidance strategies. They help in the short-term because they reduce the intensity of your emotional rollercoaster, but it’s a matter of time that those uncomfortable, distressful, and overwhelming feelings you’re running away from reappear, and often with more intensity.

What to do instead? Before taking action when going through your emotional rollercoaster, see if you can step back,… Click To Tweet

The more you pay attention to your emotions for what they are, the more you will learn to have… Click To Tweet