March 3, 2021

When It's Okay To Be Emotional In Front of Our Kids

Is it okay for us to be emotional in front of our kids? 

Julie, one of our podcast listeners, asked this question in our Facebook group

Is it good for kiddos to see their moms have emotions? And how can we talk through our emotions with our kids? My grandmother lost her husband when my dad was 11 years old. She had four kids, no job.She had to take care of everything. Once I asked her how she coped with all of that, and she said she just held it together, always, except when she cried in the shower at night. At first, I thought, wow, how strong of her. Now that I have kids, I kind of wonder: is shower crying always good? Never good. Sometimes good? 

Shower crying is definitely better than swallowing emotions entirely. And there are times when our emotions, and/or the situations causing them, are too unsettling for our kids to handle. Sometimes it's good for kids to see our emotions, but we shouldn't be asking kids to hold them for us.

But studies show that children whose mothers express emotions like sadness or loneliness in their presence are more emotionally literate as they grow. By serving as “emotional coaches” for our kids, and modeling how we process difficult moments in our own lives, we can raise kids more able to handle such moments themselves. 

In this episode we discuss when it’s okay to be emotional in front of our kids, why suppressing our emotions entirely might not work as well as we think it does, and when shower cries are most certainly called for. Good news: we don't have to fear that showing our vulnerability is a bad thing.

Our listener Jennifer summed it up best: "I don’t hide the most intense parts of being human from the people I’m trying to help on their journey as humans.”

Here are links to some of the writing on the topic that we discuss in this episode: 

John Lamble for The Conversation: Should you hide negative emotions from children?

Gottman Institute: Parental Meta-Emotion Philosophy and the Emotional Life of Families

Bonnie Le for Personality and Social Psychology: The Costs of Suppressing Negative Emotions and Amplifying Positive Emotions During Parental Caregiving

Judy Dunn and Jane Brown for Developmental Psychology: Family Talk About Feeling States and Children's Later Understanding Of Others' Emotions

Woody Harrelson explains how to handle unpleasant emotions on Cheers

"Turn it Off" from The Book of Mormon

Toilet-Training Toddler Declares, 'I Didn't Poop, I Peed!'

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