Meeting the Emotional Needs of Our Family – Part 1

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Sally stuffs her hands deeper into her sweater pockets as she kicks a stone ahead of her on the way to the mail box... “Why?” she says to herself, “Why can’t dad show an interest in my life—I need someone to talk to! This youth social life is a nightmare...He does so much stuff with the boys, but me...when I want to talk is seems like his lights don’t come on.”

Emotion is a by-product of life. Things happen that invite anger. Things happen that make us glad. Things happen that make us sad. We sing with emotion. We choose songs to match our emotion of the moment. Sometimes we wipe tears and sometimes we tap our toes to the rhythm. We are by nature emotional people that need a vent for what is happening inside of us.

As parents we are busy people; we tend to focus on certain aspects of family life. As fathers we may tend to believe mother can be there for Sally. We will take Johnny along with us to the hardware store and believe that we are doing our job. Mothers can be inclined to let the exasperation of relating to a male that would seemingly rather grunt and mumble than speak plain English, to a dad who seems to understand that language better than she does.

As parents, we are missing a very basic building block in the foundation of our children’s lives if we do not encourage cross gender emotional interchange. Girls need a dad that is there for them, and boys need a mother that can weave dialogue into their life in spite of all their seeming preference to be upside down on a jungle gym as opposed to talking real life stuff.

In early parenting we start out with little people’s problems, but eventually they turn into big people’s problems. We are setting the stage for emotional bonding when we have time to commiserate with our two-year old over a doll that fell into a mud puddle and out of her good graces. Someday it may be a young man that was tightly wrapped around her heart and the next moment slipped out of her grasp. A home where it is safe to share the hurts, fears and insecurities, joys, dreams, and goals of life is not something that just happens without effort. There are steps we can take to invite sharing and there are things we can do that will prevent sharing.

While our family’s feet are under our table, we are on a mission to give them tools they need to process life and to rightly utilize the resources around them to aid in that processing. Our ultimate goal as parents is to mentor our children into responsible adults who are able to tackle the ups and downs of life and function independently of our coaching, yet totally depend on God’s grace and the resources around them.

There are so many things parents like to do when it comes to aiding our children emotionally. We like to focus on finding the right church where the ministry is kind. We seek to find the right school, the right social environments where they will be accepted. We do not like the job of drawing them out from under the porch after a wound from a friend and helping them sort it all out, but that is an integral part of parenting.

We need to use their experiences in life to teach them how to process relational hiccups, how to sort through what they could have done differently to prevent certain actions or reactions, and how to calm a turbulent turn of events. From the moment of great insult from a “snap” from Fido because his tail was pulled too hard, to their prize car demolished by one careless action, our families are looking to us to help them sort through emotion.

Dysfunctional emotional patterns focus on do not trust, do not tell and do not feel. Healthy emotional patterns merge into the true feelings in the happenings of life until it can be possible to trust again and to talk about it with others comfortably and discreetly.

We will hardly ever get to the point we will need to sit on our hands to keep from clapping because we wrecked our car, but hopefully we can get to the point that as we reflect on even our difficult experiences, we find things to be thankful for. “In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you” (1Th 5:18). It does not say here for all things…but in all things.

Some of us naturally are prone to see the glass half full and some of us half empty even though the water level is the same either way. Our temperament plays a huge role in our perspectives of the developments of life. As parents, we need to work with each child’s natural coping skills to attempt to bring balance to the way they process life.

We have methods we use to process life that lead to belief systems if not guided right. The dog who is shot by a gun, believes all guns will hurt him and will hide out in the wood shed when a gun is in hand. What he “perceives” as actual and controls him, is a faulty “belief system”. The truth is one gun hurt him but not all guns will; it was just an accident.

We can not explain to Fido the emotional bondage he is in because of his “beliefs” about all guns, but God has gifted families with the privilege of dialogue and the ability to bring balance to the perceptions that are a result of the hurts of life. Wrong belief systems hold us captive, and tie us up in knots emotionally. We must balance our family’s belief systems with truth.

The child that believes they are “dumb” needs a parent that helps them process such thoughts factually. A mediocre success or even a failure in one area, does not spell total failure. Or the child that believes it will not help to talk to Sammy about how he offended Sammy with what he said yesterday is setting himself up for emotional bondage. One failed attempt to communicate our feelings to someone does not mean the next one might not go better. Past happenings do not guarantee future repeats. This concept keeps families from trying again to restore relationships. It keeps husbands and wives from trying again to communicate on a difficult subject.

~Myerstown, PA
June 2012