Managing Your Families Emotions

By Alexa Ashworth – MFT, Intern

Right now, the only question that seems to be in the back of everyone’s mind is “what’s next?”.  As we are receiving new updates and information around COVID19 daily, it is challenging to quiet the mind and soul.

Alongside processing worldly information, we are also having to change what our personal worlds once looked like at home.  These current lifestyle changes came quickly without much time to prepare.  As we are all scrambling to re-organize daily work routines and make sure we are doing our best for our kids, heightened internal emotional responses are going to happen.  Here are some ways to help self-regulate, re-create structure in the home, and have fun in the process.

Practice Self Check-Ins:

Now that most of us are experiencing every family member being home at once, make sure you are allowing time to check in with your own emotions. If you feel the onset of anger within your body, step away from your family and identify the emotion you are feeling.  After identifying that emotion, recognize it.  As you recognize your internal experience try not to place judgment on the emotion or criticize yourself in the moment.  You are doing the best you can.

If you are unable to practice self-check-ins, reach out to someone in your family or friendship circle that is a good listener and feels like a safe haven for your emotions to be explored.  If you do not know who to go to in your personal relational circle, you can always reach out to a professional counselor or family therapist for teletherapy sessions during this time.

Identify Other Family Emotions:

As you practice identifying your own emotional responses to situations in the home, remember to allow space to identify what other members of your family are feeling. Make sure you are labeling your loved one’s emotions clearly and correctly.  By doing this, you are letting your spouse or children know you are present and care about their experience.  If you are unsure what your child is feeling, ask them to help you understand what they are going through.

Think through your Options:

It is easy to react at the moment to our child’s outbursts and dysregulated behaviors, especially when we are already at t

he end of our rope. When you know you have no room for other ideas, take a step back, and think through your options.

Allow yourself grace for what you have already tried and then create space to make a new plan.  While you do this, it is okay to let your child work out their own frustration without drawing yourself back into another power struggle.

Check-in with someone whether it is your spouse or a phone call to another person you trust to re-evaluate your situation.  You ALWAYS have time to step away and re-think an alternative emotional response before re-engaging with a family member.

Encourage Daily Completion:

It can be easy to want to give up on deadlines and goals being at home all day, every day. While your children are working on assignments, provide positive reinforcement and check-in to see how they are progressing with their tasks.

As everyone completes their tasks and goals, it will help reduce external stressors.  The key here is to stay persistent even when you or a family member are anxious.

Allow for Intimate Conversation:

Out of any of these suggestions and tips for slowing down and self-regulating our emotions, I believe this one is most important. This piece of the day also takes courage to step up and initiate a one on one conversation or family huddle to address those things that are not going well.

It is extremely important for us to have those harder conversations and allow emotions to be expressed instead of “stonewalling” one another to get through (survive) the day.  The reward in having difficult conversations is it provides everyone the opportunity to start over the next day and try to respond to one another in a more loving way.

In this process, you are also validating one another’s emotions and sharing that you are in this together.  The best way to initiate intimate conversation is over meal times or have a family huddle before bed.  Maybe you all have a fire outside or sit on pillows in a circle within the home to create an intentional space for these conversations to be had.

Promote Positive Emotions through Play:

Whether it is taking time to do deep breathing exercises or organizing a half-hour of a family game, there are several moments within a day to play.

Focused breaths are one way to help us create space between ourselves and emotional reactions.  We do this during self-check-ins, however, what if you did it as a whole family.  Everyone laying on the living room floor and pretending you are all on your favorite floaty in a lake, enjoying the sunshine.  This is something everyone can do for a simple five minutes together before moving on to another task.

Create a half-hour for family play is the best way to promote daily positive emotions.  Allowing time for enthusiasm, happiness, and excitement is the best medicine for our soul!  Examples of half-hour activities are charades, card games, building a sculpture out of cardboard boxes, baking, Simon Says, musical statues, jump rope…Etc.  Below is a link with more in-home game ideas!        

The goal in practicing ways to self-regulate and increase positive experiences for the family is to make this a way of life.  When we consciously focus on shifting negative, distressing thoughts to more positive, motivating ones our other emotions follow suit.

What we choose to do in the present day with our children will have a larger impact on how they will self-regulate later on.  You are the teacher and role model.  Your child is constantly watching your responses to those around you and will learn over time how to manage certain behaviors by understanding how you handle your own behaviors.  I hope one of these six areas has provided a new avenue to explore something once undiscovered.

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