Teaching Emotions To a Toddler

I’ve been in a bad place for a little over a month. I’m not really sure what the problem is. I do know that my Agoraphobia has gotten much worse. I am having the most difficult time leaving my house. I can’t decide if it’s because I don’t want to leave Punky – even though I have never wanted to be a stay at home mom – or I just can’t find the energy to do anything but sit and ponder my predicament.

Thank goodness for FMLA, because I swear, I don’t know how I would be able to do this without it. I wake up every morning and I get dressed and get ready to go to work, then something happens. Something always happens that causes my heart to race and my stomach to tighten and I just get so anxious about leaving the house.

People don’t realize that it’s the illnesses you can’t see that cause the most trouble. My therapist believes that part of the issue is that I was not allowed to express my feelings or my emotions growing up, so now I don’t know how to deal with it. Instead, I just shut down. Like now. I am just shutting down.

Going through this makes me very in tune with how I want to make sure that Punky has a different experience. It is difficult though, since she’s two and I think she’s made it to the threes early (which I hear is worse than the twos). She’s got a short temper, an attitude, and her mouth does this thing where is says mean things and does a lot of screaming. She’s sassy and strong willed and she has her own little opinions and thoughts and feelings.

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So, its pretty hard to help her see that her behavior isn’t acceptable, but she can still feel the way she feels. Basically, I don’t want to punish her for being upset or being angry or sad.

Instead. I want to help her identify the emotion she has and find a way to cope with it that is not as disruptive to the rest of the people in the house. I’m trying to do this. It’s hard when there are four adults to the one toddler and we all take care of her at the same time. It’s not always consistent, which I’m sure can be confusing for her.

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I just know that when I was a kid, if I was upset about something my parents said, it didn’t matter. If they told me no, I just had to be silent about it and not have an opinion. If they told me to do something, I wasn’t allowed to ask why or negotiate. I’m sure that’s how most people grew up. It’s probably not out of the norm for today’s parenting either.

But, I’m finding that, with my blind faith in religion and then my inability to express myself or my feelings, I have had a hard time coping with my own emotions. Instead, I bottle everything up and I don’t confront people for fear that I will have a negative consequence. I don’t like conflict, I can’t say no to anyone for the most part and I don’t assert myself the way I should. Instead. I don’t talk about anything. I just sit there and keep inside the emotions and thoughts I have until I can’t keep them in anymore.

I don’t want that for Punky.

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I want her to express herself. I want her to be able to feel mad or sad or happy and not feel ashamed about it. I want her to also be able to deal with those emotions without screaming and having an attitude about it. I’m sure its more complex that it needs to be for a two year old. I know I’m probably making it more difficult than it needs to be.

This is the problem with residual brainwashing from church where you blindly follow and obey whatever you are told and PTSD from the childhood of repressed feelings – it causes me to project my fears onto my kid. I hope that doesn’t damage her more. I work so hard not to be the same parent I had, making sure Punky feels heard and loved and important. I spent my energy making sure she’s a kid, that she enjoys life as a kid, doesn’t grow up too fast and has a childhood where more good memories are found than bad ones.

Is that more damaging to her? I don’t know. My working so hard to break the cycle and sometimes I’m afraid that I will be a different kind of parent that damages their kid.

I know the last few posts have been a bit deeper and depressing than usual. (if you missed the password protected post before this) I’m sorry for that. I’m just in a funk and I can’t really figure out why. But, going through this and having a disorder like this, makes me more and more concerned that I will break my kid.

Even though I know – its not the truth.

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I know this kid is a kid. She’s a happy kid. She’s an active, sweet, beautiful, smart little girl. And I just hope my insecurities don’t rub off on her. Instead, I hope she can learn to articulate her feelings and find healthy ways to deal with them and express herself.

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8 thoughts on “Teaching Emotions To a Toddler

  1. Just being conscious of wanting better for Punky is a wonderful thing. I know you will help her foster a healthy relationship with her emotions and learn how to express them. What about taking the things you want for her and applying them to yourself? If you want Punky to express, you express yourself. I know…that probably seems a mighty impossible thing to do sometimes. But look – you just did it here, for us.

    Do you keep a journal? I find that helps me get things out and process things. It helps me land on answers when I may not otherwise do so. I’m thinking of you and hoping you start to feel a bit better, day by day.

    Your daughter is gorgeous, by the way!

    • Thanks, Lindsay, your words are what’s needed. I think! I Just started journaling again. I always start to and then never actually finish. So I have been writing snippets, nothing bit, just thoughts and feelings.

      As for my kiddo, thanks! She definitely knows she adorable!

  2. Pardon the unsolicited advice, but are you familiar with “How to Talk So Your Kids Will Listen, and Listen So Your Kids Will Talk” (or vice versa…I never remember)? I agree with Lindsay that being aware of your own habits and making conscious effort to recignize how they influence P is huge.

  3. I don’t have any real advice as my kiddos aren’t there yet. But I am sure I will be facing the same things because I was raised to not question and not verbally express myself. I came from a sparking family (not that that was bad) but we were not encouraged to share feelings. I have a short temper myself so I have to be extra concious around the boys because I want to model better behavior for them. What about books? There are lots of good one out there about emotions and expression. This site is has a great listing:

    http://www.zerotothree.org/child-development/social-emotional-development/books-that-support-social-emotional-skills.html

  4. I missed the password post, as I did not have the password and was knee deep in post holiday family drama over her myself, hahaha. If you do not care, can you send the password at irishsoul@aol.com so I can catch up?

    This post resonates with me. I spent 2 years engulfed in agoraphobia. It was one of the hardest periods of my life. It completely baffles people that knew me “then” to see me now and all the traveling and stuff we do. No joke, the very FIRST plane ride I ever took was 14 hours across the atlantic to Europe. Yeah, go big or go home, right?

    The fact that you actively try to break the cycle with Punky’s upbringing means that you already have, please see that. Your parents did not care to try, that you do is something to be celebrated. Also, I need to search for it in my history, but I recently read a wonderful article talking about how children raised away from the church are actually MORE globally aware and demonstrate higher levels of empathy and emotions to others than those raised in the church. Validating to your ideology, yes? Hang in there!

  5. Having Mary really helped us learn to express how we were feeling. What you might want to try with Punky is give her “feeling” words. For example, is shes having a tantrum you may want to say, “Wow punky. I see that you might be upset. Wre you upset/happy/mad/sad/scared? Oh you are? (Hug) Tell mommy why…” And that open up dialog and allows her to feel comfortable with expressing shy she feels things. Then reiterate wjat she says. “Oh my goodness. You’re sad because you’re toy broke/you cant put your shoes on by yourself/you feel like mommy isnt listening?” We feel that it also helped up with modeling behavior and vocalizing why we feel certain feelings too. Its a ripple effect. I hope that helps! We have seen a huge difference inary aince we started that. Also Todd Parr books are awesome for that!

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