Dealing with feelings in your family and How to express them in creative ways
Posted on 4th February 2021 at 10:42
There's no one-size-fits-all approach to dealing with feelings either negative or positive for any of us.
We underestimate the power of our teenagers’ feelings at our peril! As a parent it is easy to dismiss these feelings as over-dramatic or out of proportion, but teenagers do experience their feelings as overwhelming. They have not got the experience or strategies to deal with them that we develop later in life.
Fact: The frontal cortex of the brain (as shown) which helps to dampen down strong feelings and prevents us from acting impulsively – is not fully developed until the age of 25!
So, is it any surprise that school can cause so much anxiety in teenagers and their teachers and parents? They are transitioning numerous times in a school day, learning so many different subjects all whilst trying to fit in with their peers and find their sense of self and their identity, whilst changing and developing within their bodies.
We all learn best when we are happy, relaxed, and positive and the same goes when we are interacting at home with each other.
Often children and teens who are on the Autistic Spectrum end the school day with feelings that can no longer be ‘bottled up’ and the child feels safer at home to let all these feelings out. This has been called “The After School Collapse Response”.
Traditionally the British have been characterised by their ‘stiff upper lip’ and emotions viewed with caution. Some generations of families are not comfortable with having deep and meaningful conversations about all aspects of growing up, especially talking about sex and relationships, drugs, alcohol and gender and sexuality.
We know however, that it is not effective or healthy to ignore or deny difficult feelings. These feelings can be easily ‘imploded’ bottled up and cause anger/resentment or exploded outwards to others and negatively impacting relationships and stress levels, which could cause risky behaviours.
Dealing with our teenagers’ feelings can be one of the most exciting, but also challenging, aspects of parenting – they can seem inexplicable, passionate, and even frightening in their intensity.
Here I offer some tips for dealing with some common feelings and helping anyone express these feelings in creative ways:
Make talking about feelings a normal part of your family life with your son/daughter. Encourage them to say how they are feeling – ask directly or hazard a guess “so I guess that’s made you feel angry/mad or “I think I would feel really let down if that happened to me”. Talk about how you felt the same when you were a teenager. We often forget we were teenagers once! Talk about the feelings of characters in the TV programmes or movies you watch together.
Use “I” statements. “I feel anxious…
Make sure your children and teens understand that all feelings are normal. Everyone experiences uncomfortable feelings like anger, jealousy, embarrassment, worry and guilt at some time. Let them know it is ok to feel this way but there is a difference between feeling angry and acting on it by thumping someone else.
Some creative ways to express feelings if you cannot speak about them:
Writing what the feelings are and when they happen as shown in the 'Feelings' worksheet.
Drawing a picture of anger, sadness, worry and use of colours highlights the expressed feeling for adults and children alike. Anger may be red, sadness may be blue, bored may be grey, happy may be yellow.
Coloured Card system e.g., use Red card for anger and allow the person to calm, then once calm, they use a green card for “I feel better…I am ready to chat …” These cards can be displayed on the teenager’s door so the parent can see the feelings in action and proceed accordingly.
Letter Writing to your feelings e.g. Dear Anger….using “I feel..”. Or write a letter to a person and once written shred it or burn it and watch the feelings go up in smoke. Write your feelings and put the notes inside a balloon and let it float away outside, so enabling you to let go.
Weather prompts can be used (see 'Emotional Weather' chart)
Singing your own lyrics or composing videos. Poetry.
Photographic & Film Journal using your own photos of things you enjoy.
Creating a self soothe box to put items in that relax you. Words of positive affirmation, photos of holidays or loved one’s. Sweets, Scents, fluffy toys or socks, hand, or body lotion.
Fashion and styling are a creative and unique way to express feelings. If we look good we feel good.
Dance and movement expression of feelings
Coping with Complicated Emotions in the Moment:
Identify the emotion you are feeling
Try breathing relaxation techniques
Try a self-soothing technique
Try progressive muscle relaxation (PMR). By tensing and relaxing your muscles enables you to feel lighter and less tense
Try meditating or praying
Try throwing the negative thought away or imagining the negative thoughts are passengers on a bus and they are being driven away into the distance
Use positive imagery. Visualise a safe and relaxing place you have visited or would like to go to. A beach, garden, waterfall, your bedroom and think through the things you can see, hear, smell, touch and feel that relaxes you
Talk to a friend, family member or a Counsellor.
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