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I know how hard it is to see your daughter struggle with difficult emotions and not know how to help!
So, I put together some ideas to help you get started.
The following tips are intended to help girls manage emotions in ways that will really stick for them, and that are really accessible for you.
Once these important roots are established, your daughter will be empowered to use her unique toolkit throughout her life to overcome her obstacles and support her happiness.
The first one is something before you even get to the point of implementing a tool to support managing the emotion, is to acknowledge and allow the emotions to exist.
A lot of times, the fear or the stigma of having the emotion itself is something that causes not only in girls, but everybody, to go inward and feel like they can’t even talk about it.
Girls learn that it’s something shameful to feel difficult emotions. They gain the impression that their complex feelings are unique to them and that no one else feels.
So, the first step is to acknowledge the fact that her emotions are real and worthy of expression and allow space for them to exist without minimizing them or trying to stop them in any way.
When you create a safe space for your daughter to express her emotions, you’ll be offering her a huge benefit.
The next thing that’s important to do is discuss the things that trigger her difficult emotions.
One big mistake people make when they’re talking about emotional triggers is to ask closed-ended questions.
Closed questions look something like, “Do you ever feel angry? Do you ever feel embarrassed?”
And so, there’s already assumption built into the question that there’s a right or wrong answer. You can choose ‘Yes’ or ‘No’.
For a girl who views big emotions as dangerous and a sign she’s bad or not perfect, if you ask her whether or not she gets mad or sad, her answer has to be, No.
Because you’re not supposed to have difficult emotions, right?
This is the current cultural message a lot of girls are still getting. It’s still the way many girls believe they need to respond in order to protect themselves.
We need to create a safe space for girls to answer with the truth.
A way you can ask the question as an open-ended question is, “What are some of the things that make you feel angry?”
When you frame the question this way, it creates the chance for an open-ended response and avoids the terse, yes or no answer.
This question implies that of course you’re going to get angry, so let’s start talking about what are some of the things that do make you angry.
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Another aspect that is important to address when you’re talking about triggers is, ‘Where do you feel it in your body when you have the emotion?‘
Talking about where you feel things in your body establishes the mind-body connection and brings in a new piece of information you can use to help yourself find balance.
The next time your daughter complains that it makes her mad when her brother takes her stuff. Or, that it makes her really upset when someone won’t talk to her at school, trying asking,
‘Where do you feel that in your body? Do you feel that in your chest, do you feel that in your stomach?’
The more you give girls access to tools to understand themselves better, the more they’ll be able to tap into their inner wisdom to guide them to the tools that are the best fit for the moment.
Before you suggest new tools for your daughter to try or share things that helped you, (even though that is going to be helpful) start by asking another open-ended question of, ‘What are the things that already help you?‘
Start by bringing already-existing strategies and strengths into discussion.
Ask, What things help you when you feel embarrassed? What things help you when you feel lonely? What works for you when you’re feeling really stressed?
When you start here, you’re not only gathering tools and strategies, you’re empowering your daughter to realize that she already has access to a lot of inner and outer resources.
Spot Red Flags
When you have a conversation with your daughter about her strengths and resources, if it’s difficult for her to come up with ideas, this can give you clues into potential gaps in her learning. If there are some areas where she doesn’t have strategies, you’ll gain valuable information about where you need to focus to get her the help she needs.
It’s important to remember that everyone has their own recipe for what’s going to help them manage each different emotion.
But, that doesn’t mean it’s not valuable in many ways when you share times you’ve struggled with difficult emotions with your daughter.
I started doing this with my daughter before she could talk. I talk to her and allow her to witness me dealing with anger and stress. I share how I’m struggling, how it’s difficult for me, the things I’m making mistakes with, the things I’m trying and the things that help.
When you share not only your strategies but also your struggles to develop emotional management tools, it helps your daughter in two important ways:
1. A chance to see potential tools she may consider trying and adding to her toolkit
2. An opportunity to witness normalizing having all kinds of emotions
Now that you’ve got the important foundations set, you need to bring all your strategies together into something tangible, like a written list.
Having something tangible you can look at is helpful especially when you’re talking about big emotions, because when tensions are high, it can be difficult to remember some of the simplest things, like, taking deep breaths, getting some fresh air or calling a friend.
When you have something you can look at, it helps remind you of the tools you already have.
The other thing that it really does for girls is to empower them to access their strategies on their own.
Even though the big goal is to normalize emotions and bring them into the forefront, the reality is that it can still feel really vulnerable and overwhelming to be dealing with these kinds of feelings, especially sometimes for the first time.
So, if girls have something tangible they can take and then be alone in their room and look through, it’s something hugely empowering you can do for them.
It can also be helpful especially if someone’s dealing with a higher level of emotion like anxiety or panic.
For example, if your daughter deals with anxiety or has panic attacks, then having those strategies in her list along with strategies for the other emotions, it can be a way that both helps the anxiety feel a little less vulnerable and gives easy access to the tools to support it.
WRITE YOUR FEELINGS IN A JOURNAL
Journaling is a valuable tool for learning how to manage your emotions.
Depending on her learning style, your daughter can write in a notebook or keep a journal on the computer, or maybe she wants to record her thoughts on video.
What matters most is that she have a safe, private space to explore her inner world and release her emotions.
Your daughter can free flow and write whatever comes to mind.
It can also be helpful to use journal prompts as a way to explore and track emotions.
Some examples of simple prompts you can use to discover more about emotions:
Related Post: Journaling with Tween Girls
MAKE YOUR OWN MOOD RING
You can make your own mood ring with some index cards. Simply write the name of the emotion on the top of the card and list 2-3 strategies for managing that emotions underneath.
I created the Chakra Girls Mood Ring. to give girls a fun, creative way to gather all their emotional management tools into one place.
You can learn more about it here: Chakra Girls Mood Ring
One last tip, if you’re serious about empowering your daughter with the tools she needs to take on any emotional challenge that comes her way, you’ll see the best results with small steps and consistency.
But, where to start?
I created this mood tracker to help you get started tracking your moods and getting in touch with how you feel on a daily basis. This is a powerful, foundational step to becoming a master of your emotions.
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