Illustrator Saha Kru
© Julia Dremina, 2021
Created with Ridero smart publishing system
Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Julia, I am a practising psychologist, and a mother of two. In my work, I all too often see how hard it can be for children and parents alike to be aware of, to accept, and to work with their emotions. This can lead to conflict, low self-esteem, confusion, a sense of being unwanted, and ultimately, to depression. Learning to understand one’s feelings and their causes is best done in childhood – as parents, we have an important task on our hands!
I would like you to see this book as your guide in exploring the magical world of emotions with your child. I’ve included games and exercises, which will allow you and your child to experiment and try out new things.
The story was written with three- to six-year-old children in mind. This is a great age to actively work on helping children get to know and understand their feelings. By encouraging them to understand themselves and their feelings better, to talk about their emotions, and to work on them in order to regulate them, you will help ensure that they do not internalize their problems, thereby turning them into a source of chronic trauma. Instead, they will learn to deal with issues as they arise.
Why We Need Emotions
All parents want to help their children be happy, yet there are no universal recipes, so all of us simply try our best.
A reliable sign is the feeling of happiness that one experiences when one is truly feeling and living through one’s emotions. This ability to be present makes for a fuller, more vivid, real and unforgettable journey. This way, we can truly live life to the fullest.
This is what children do before they are told to think in terms of “should”, “good” or “bad”.
By showing their emotions frankly, they teach us about joy and spontaneity. Whatever they’re feeling is whatever they show the world.
This might not suit the parents, who deal with the situation by “educating” their children. Sadly, parents often teach children to suppress “bad” emotions, seeing them as unacceptable and inconvenient. We simply don’t know how to deal with them!
Yet our emotions are naturally interconnected, and if we forbid children to express anger or fear, they may gradually become unable to experience joy, also.
As a psychologist, I see many children and adults who have reached this stage. Losing the way to happiness, people become unable to feel joy, to experience the fullness of life.
So, what do we do? When children show anger in public, most parents see this as a problem.
The answer is simple. We need to teach our children to understand and make good use of their emotions. At the start, we can simply encourage them to notice and observe what they are feeling, without getting scared. Later, we can support them in using their emotions. This job will take time and effort. But step by step, your children will gain a better understanding of themselves and the world around them.
What Types of Emotions Are There, And Why Do We Need Them?
When something happens that we like or dislike, energy is generated in our body. We get excited, and this creates stress. The energy can also be directed into action. This is where our emotions can serve as our guide. Emotions can be seen as natural physiological mechanisms our bodies generate to help us overcome obstacles (in the case of anger), escape from danger (fear), take action or feel rewarded for an achievement (joy), and so on.
Crucially, once the “stress – emotion” mechanism is triggered, it cannot be stopped until it runs its course – however strictly we might try to prohibit something. This is the case both for adults, and for children. Children can feel very confused about what they are experiencing physically, and if their mother tells them that getting angry is bad and they must not do it, the only way out for them may be to suppress the external manifestation of emotion. This way, they prevent others from witnessing their emotion, but the feeling itself, as well as the conflict that caused it, still remains. When children feel that they can’t live up to their mothers’ and fathers’ expectations, they may often conclude that there’s something wrong with them; that they’re “bad” good for nothing, and that no one wants them. Unfortunately, in my work I often see how parents’ glib comments, thoughtless words and laughter can serve to block children from expressing emotions, including the “good” ones. I have seen grown men and women unable to openly express joy, all because as children, they were told they “smiled like fools”. The seemingly harmless comment made them a lot less happy in life than they might otherwise have been, and this can happen with all our emotions.