My kids are learning about ‘negative’ emotions at school – I tell them there’s no such thing

My kids are learning about ‘negative’ emotions at school – I tell them there’s no such thing

“We learnt about positive and negative emotions at school today,” my 10-year-old told me recently.

“Right,” I replied, “and what are negative emotions?”

And she listed them off: anger, sadness, guilt, jealousy, frustration.

“We played a little board game about emotions,” she added. “When you land on a positive emotion you keep going, but landing on negative emotions means you have to move backwards.”

And so, she and I had a little chat about emotions.

There’s no such thing as negative emotions

On a surface level, I get that things like anger and jealousy can be seen as negative. And I can see how that can fit within a snippet of school curriculum.

But, as a parent, I’m about going into deeper life skills and thoughts.

So I told my daughter this: “To me, there’s no such thing as positive and negative emotions – they are all just emotions. There are, however, positive and negative ways to deal with those emotions.”

“There’s no such thing as positive and negative emotions – they are all just emotions. There are, however, positive and negative ways to deal with those emotions.”

See, the problem with labelling some emotions as “negative” is that we start to think of them as bad things. We start to fear those things being part of us or happening to us. We start to hope we can avoid those feelings.

But we’re humans: we’re going to feel every one of those “negative” emotions many, many times in our lives. That’s a fact.


Read this too: 5 ways to build your parental resilience


 

Don't miss I'm Fine and Other Lies by Megan Blandford #postnataldepression #postpartumdepression #pnd #selfkindness

Emotions are just emotions

I told my daughter – and continue to tell her and her sister – that emotions are just emotions. It’s okay to feel sad that your pet guinea pig died, it’s okay to feel frustrated about not being able to do something well, it’s okay to feel angry that some kid is bullying you.

It’s how you deal with those feelings that counts.

I didn’t go to the school to talk to them about labelling emotions this way (although I was tempted), because I know that my kids are going to face such opinions in their lives. Rather than try to obliterate those opinions, I can teach them to challenge them; to throw around different ideas in their minds (because my take on it might not fit with them either) and come up with what works for them.

Negative emotions and kids

Why I think all emotions are bloody wonderful

What I didn’t tell my 10-year-old (but will one day) is the reason I feel so strongly about the “positive and negative” labelling of emotions.

I went through years of depression, and in that time I was mostly numb. I didn’t feel joy in the things that would usually make me happy, and I didn’t feel frustrated at the things that would normally annoy me; I was just kind of there in body, but without feeling much at all.

When you’ve lived without feeling emotions properly, you learn to value them. All of them.

When you’ve lived without feeling emotions properly, you learn to value them. All of them.

These days I sit with my emotions, let them come in, and I deal with them. I might go outside and kick some stuff when I’m angry at something that’s going wrong, and I’ll have a good cry when sad news comes along. When I get a rejection in my work that hits hard, I give myself a little time to feel annoyed about it before moving on. That’s not to say that I’m pleased to be feeling those ways, but I’m grateful for it.

Because when I’m feeling something, it means I’m well. It means I’m me again.

I’ve learnt the hard way that emotions aren’t negative, and I want to pass that perspective to my kids so that they, too, can feel all of life.

What do you think: negative and positive emotions, or just emotions?

Both images by Annie Spratt 

Why I’m not a fan of Mother’s Day (and what I’m doing about it)

Why I’m not a fan of Mother’s Day (and what I’m doing about it)

I don’t like Mother’s Day.

There, I’ve said it. You can disagree with me if you like, and in fact I’d love you to! Because even though we have this one thing – motherhood – in common, we’re all different and can enjoy different things in a variety of ways.

But the day itself doesn’t encourage such nuances. On this one day each year I feel I’m expected to morph into a person who suddenly likes fluffy pink bed socks, nighties that wouldn’t look out of place on a nun, floral cards, and loudly declares how lucky I am for twelve hours straight.

I feel I’m expected to morph into a person who suddenly likes fluffy pink bed socks and nighties that wouldn’t look out of place on a nun.

I’ve tried to like it, I really have. I’ve smiled while trying to find joy in the day’s stereotypical activities, I’ve helped at school Mother’s Day stalls where kids cry about not knowing which piece of plastic crap their mum might like, and I’ve tried to sleep in on command. But I just don’t enjoy it.

Expectations set by others

I think it’s the expectation to do things in a particular way on a day that’s set by others, with no accounting for individuality or reality, that gets my sense of rebellion stirring.

Mother’s Day also preys on the idea of women being chained to the kitchen, unappreciated and self-sacrificing. These are the ideals of motherhood that are dying – if somewhat slowly – and my own determination not to live like that refutes the things that take us back there. To me, a day that relies on the idea that mum deserves one day off, given to her with the expectation of the right amount of gratitude, isn’t a good fit with my version of motherhood.


Read this too: A mother’s day


 

However, the reality is that Mother’s Day is unavoidable because my kids love it. In the early days of parenting, my husband and I agreed not to do Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. Easy: it worked really well for a few years, until our first daughter started kinder. During the preschool and school years, you actually have no choice.

So if I don’t enjoy Mother’s Day in its current form, I’ve wondered over the last couple of years – what if I was to make it different?

A day for the kids, not for me

What I’ve now done is change my mindset about Mother’s Day.

When I thought of it as a day for me, it felt annoying that I had to succumb to all the expectations. I always felt disappointed by the day, because I was holding such high hopes for it.

Now, I think of it as a day for the kids, not “my” day. It’s a day that’s about the little cards and gifts they’ve happily crafted, it’s about being proud of their efforts in kindness, and it’s a day for giving them my time. I now look at it as a way to make them feel happy about trying to do something thoughtful for me.

Yes, I’m a “busy mum” and yes, I “deserve to be spoiled”, but woe betide anyone who says such phrases on Mother’s Day.

Do one thing I enjoy

Having said that, I do like to include a little something of my choosing on Mother’s Day (as I try to do every day). And, because I feel rebellious on that day, I never choose to have a stereotypical bubble bath or go out for scones and tea.

I’m more likely to make the kids go bushwalking with me on Mother’s Day, or go to Bunnings while the rest of the population feeds their mothers soggy toast for breakfast in bed.

Don't miss I'm Fine and Other Lies by Megan Blandford #postnataldepression #postpartumdepression #pnd #selfkindness

Patronising clichés are banned

Yes, I’m a “busy mum” and yes, I “deserve to be spoiled”, but woe betide anyone who says such phrases on Mother’s Day.

The only one that’s allowed is, “I love you” – that goes back and forward between me and the kids multiple times. I guess I just found the joy in Mother’s Day.

Are you a fan of Mother’s Day?

Bothimages by Annie Spratt

5 ways to build your parental resilience

5 ways to build your parental resilience

Resilience is a hot topic, almost always in the context of our children. But what about parental resilience? It makes sense that resilient parents have a better chance of raising resilient kids.

Schools and parents are doing everything possible to increase the resilience of our children, so that the kids can cope with challenges, bounce back after adversity and appreciate the good times. It’s important stuff, but it’s not a one-off lesson – resilience is something our kids will learn over a long period of time and through a series of life events.


More on this: 10 ways to help kids build resilience to better cope with life


 

As parents, we’re still learning this skill too. A good store of parental resilience means we can bounce back from not just general life stuff, but from the many parenting challenges we’re faced with.

I think that parental resilience is just as important as building it in our kids. (And maybe more.) Here’s how we can build up your stores of resilience, and hopefully feel you can better cope with all the demands of parenting.

Parental resilience builders - tips for coping

5 steps to parental resilience

1. Build up a support team

There’s no doubt that we feel more resilient when we’re supported by others. We need connection in our lives, and people we can talk honestly with. We need to surround ourselves with people who get it.


Keep sharing: 10 reasons why mums stop talking about parenting


 

Your support team might include your partner and your family, and it definitely needs to include some girlfriends that you can chat to. We need our tribe – the people we can send a quick message to and know we’ll get a note of solidarity back, the ones we can call on to go out with and stay up too late talking about what’s bothering us (and solve every other world problem besides).

2. Take a break

The further we push to keep going, the more our coping mechanisms are drawn on and stretched. How often have you thought you’re going along okay, only to be thrown off your perch by that one extra little thing? (Me? All the time!)

What we really need is to try and keep a little emotional energy in reserve, so that those extra things push us closer to the edge (and then ease off), rather than toppling over the edge.

And although I wish there was a magic answer to creating that, for me the answer really is rest. A mum break – to go out for a walk by myself, to nap, or have a night off parenting – is the best way to create that extra space, so I can come back ready to face whatever’s next.

Parental resilience - working on your own resilience to help your kids find theirs

3. Get rid of the perfection

I am so guilty of expecting perfection from myself in many areas of my life, not least of which is my parenting. I’ve spent many hours in the past beating myself up about not dealing with a situation as well as I’d have liked.

But I try to treat myself better these days: talking to myself with kindness, even (and especially) when I’ve not met my own standards. And when I’m kinder to myself, it’s far easier to feel able to move on to the next joys and challenges of parenting.


Read more from Megan on this: 5 ways to be kinder to yourself


 

4. Give yourself an outlet

Sometimes parenting sucks and everything sucks and why can’t you just run away to a deserted island? Yep, sometimes you need to chuck a tantrum.

And that’s okay!

I reckon that the danger with the parental resilience conversation is that we start thinking we have to be able to cope brilliantly all the time, and move on from any challenge really quickly. But one of the keys to resilience is in how we deal with those challenges – not to try and erase them.

So I say chuck that tantrum – whether it’s a rant at home, or a more mature version by going for a run or turning up your favourite ‘poor me’ song in the car and singing along loudly – to let out the emotions.

Don't miss I'm Fine and Other Lies by Megan Blandford #postnataldepression #postpartumdepression #pnd #selfkindness

 

5. Connect with your kids

I know that we’re always hearing and saying that we can only recharge if we have time away from our kids – but I don’t think that’s strictly true. While a break is important now and then, I think connection is also vital.

Related: A quick guide to connecting with teens and tweens

Time having fun together, doing whatever it is that helps you leave behind the need to be ‘parenty’, can not only build a bond but give you the chance to feel good about your parenting. For me, it’s a reminder that the kids I’m raising are great humans and that what my husband and I are doing is working, which gives me the encouragement to continue with a positive mindset.

How do you increase your parental resilience?

Feature image by J W; 2  by Erik Witsoe 

5 gentle ways to for mums to practise self-kindness

5 gentle ways to for mums to practise self-kindness

A massive chunk of our role as mums is to be kind. But, while we get very good at treating others well, sometimes we forget to do the same for ourselves. Self-kindness is just not on a mother’s To Do list as much as it should be.

That was definitely me for a long time. In fact, I went so far in the wrong direction that I became an expert in being awful to myself – and, trust me, that’s not a field of expertise that’s particularly handy. It was this treatment of myself, in part, that led me deep into depression and took a whole lot of time to work my way out of.

Now, life is all about self-kindness, because I’ve realised that (a) I need it, and (b) I can’t give much to others if I’m suffering.

Here’s what I’ve learnt about self-kindness while in the throes of parenting.

Don't miss I'm Fine and Other Lies by Megan Blandford #postnataldepression #postpartumdepression #pnd #selfkindness

Self-kindness for mums

Watch how you talk to yourself

The biggest thing I learnt while recovering from depression was that my internal self-talk was incredibly damaging, and, most importantly, that I could change it.

Usually the advice tells us to fight hard against that inner critic – we’re always told it’s a black dog or a demon, and that we have to battle it until it goes quiet. But I spent years doing that, and the battles just got louder.

Instead, I finally learnt to take a kinder approach in how I spoke to myself.

Once you become aware of how you talk to yourself, and get to know that you don’t have to put up with constant internal criticism, you can mindfully change the dialogue.


Read this too:Self-care: Why a bubble-bath just won’t cut it


 

Think small

While we’d all love to practise self-kindness with frequent trips to lie on a beach in Bali, ski in Switzerland, shop in Hong Kong … oops, I’m getting carried away…

Yes, big, grand gestures would be great, but the little things are actually the biggest things of all. It’s really easy to be nice to yourself when you’ve got a cocktail in hand, poolside in Vanuatu (dreaming again), but amid the daily mundanity is where you need it most.

I think every morning: “What’s one thing I’d like to do for myself today?”

Self-kindness looks different every day, so I think every morning: “What’s one thing I’d like to do for myself today?” My answer might be:

•  Go for a walk in that beautiful sunshine
•  Eat that favourite chocolate that’s hidden in the pantry
•  Read a book (even if it’s just for 10 minutes while I eat lunch)
•  Wear my new skirt (even if I’m just working from home that day)
•  Reduce my to-do list slightly so the day feels more relaxed

They’re not big expectations, but those things that seem tiny? They pile up together to create a string of self-kindness that threads through your life – and that’s pretty cool.

 

Practise self-kindness - it will enhance your mothering

Spend time around kind people

We soak up the words and actions of the people we spend lots of time with, so it makes sense that if we want to be kind to ourselves we should be around those who are kind to us.

That might be your friends, family, and your partner – but don’t forget to teach your kids to treat you kindly, too. Sometimes we put up with a lot of crap from the small people we spend so much time with, but no longer! They can treat you kindly by:

•  Speaking to you nicely
•  Taking your plate and cleaning up after dinner
•  Doing something thoughtful for you
•  Writing you a lovely note
•  Asking how your day was

Set the expectation high, because you’re a top-notch mum who deserves it, and because it’s good for the kids to learn that kindness to all is important.

Take your own advice

We treat our kids with such kindness: listen to their worries, reassure them that they matter, open our arms when they need a cry… the list goes on.

If we want to be kind to ourselves we should be around those who are kind to us.

I give my children all sorts of pearls of wisdom to help them feel better. I encourage them to like themselves and treat themselves well. They have lists on their walls to remind them of the things that make them feel good. And we talk about what to do when they’re being hard on themselves.

But that saying, ‘Do as I say, not as I do’? That was me.

These days, when I’m being harsh on myself, I stop and think about what I’d say to my kids if they were in a similar situation.

You are enough

I don’t know about you, but I’m really hard on my parenting. I find it easy to beat myself up if I think I’ve said the wrong thing or haven’t been patient enough.

I think it’s important to consciously remind ourselves often that our kids don’t need us to be perfect. They need us to be… us. We are enough.

Like me, you might be a work-in-progress at practising this self-kindness through parenting, and that’s okay. A work-in-progress is perfectly wonderful.

What do you do to be kind to yourself?

Feature image by Camila Cordeiro; 2 Rachel Lees.

Don't miss I'm Fine and Other Lies by Megan Blandford #postnataldepression #postpartumdepression #pnd #selfkindness

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