Do you express emotional vulnerability around your kids? Do you ever say you feel nervous, frustrated or shed a few tears in front of them?
If not, why not? What are you predicting would happen if you do? Are your fears likely to be valid or are they just a product of your upbringing or societal stigma?
By expressing emotions, you are teaching them to fight EMOTIONAL PERFECTIONISM (yes, it’s a real thing). Emotional perfectionism is the unrealistic, unhelpful desire to be in absolute control of all ‘negative’ emotions. The desire to be a robot rather than a human basically. In modern society, it’s the fake smile on Instagram hiding the pain behind the scenes. In families, it’s the thought that you ‘should’ keep it together - always - so as not to burden or upset the kids. Bottling it up until you are hidden from view. Impossible standards.
What lessons do you really want to teach your kids? To avoid? To escape? To use excessive distraction to suppress emotions (which only works in the short-term)? Or to tackle negative emotions head on?
To display your feelings in a safe and controlled way (nothing too extreme obviously), opens the doors to exhibit effective mood management to your biggest students in life - your kids. And what better role model do they have than you. You can actually SHOW them, not just tell them how to cope. Powerful stuff.
Modelling positive coping may involve directly labelling your emotions, demonstrating some diaphragmatic breathing, popping some music on, stepping into nature for a break, doing some exercise, developing more balanced positive perspectives out loud, and of course seeking support from loved ones.
These little kid-sponges are soaking in all of your coping behaviours. Even on a subconscious level. Repetitive observations mean those coping strategies become normalised over time. A practical guide of how-to-act in certain situations - just like using your manners at the dinner table. The coping strategies may take some reminding to begin with. As they become practiced at managing emotions, you can just use empowering questions to prompt them, "what do you think will help?" and "what helped you last time?" - the same questions you should answer aloud for yourself.
With this brave approach of modelling positive coping, your kids will be less likely to freeze when they feel upset, anxious, angry and so on in future. In fact, they will be more likely to act rationally to calm themselves down efficiently and effectively.
BE AUTHENTIC, BE VULNERABLE AND BE A MODEL OF POSITIVE COPING.
Walk the talk, mums and dads. It will help both you AND your little future generation’s mental health.