Facilitating Healthy Emotional Expression in Children

By Christopher Easton            

We tend to believe that as adults we know what is best when it comes to a child’s expression.  This couldn’t be further from the truth.  When we give a child permission to express what is really going on, in the moment, we give them the opportunity to begin to change the way they interact with the world.  When a child no longer has to stuff their emotions there is no need to have those bottled up emotions surface at a later time in the form of frustration, rebellion, anger, low self esteem, self worth issues, depression, physical issues, etc.

When a child has an experience that causes an emotional response and is allowed to express their feelings there is less tendency to cause a lock down in the emotional body.  The problem with this approach is it often causes the caregiver to feel their own emotional holding.  This is one of the reasons we are so quick to attempt to have the child move on and forget whatever the experience was.   They don’t really forget the experience they just lock it away and it gets expressed in a variety of ways later on.

We learn at a very early age that most expression is not appropriate.  Most of all do not express any emotions other than what you have learned to be good emotions.  Such as being nice, happy or positive. Sad or grieving is ok up to a point.  Whatever the emotion is don’t make it too much.  The reason we are taught to keep our collective mouths shut is because when we express emotions it causes the people around us to feel all the emotions they have been suppressing.  This causes a problem in that now you suppress your feelings and when someone else goes to express it makes you feel uncomfortable and the cycle of non expression continues.  We all have the opportunity to shift this if we would be willing to express our emotions without judgement and let others do the same.  The problem is we judge ours and others emotions as wrong or bad. This just drives the unexpressed emotions deeper into our subconscious where it festers.  It will be expressed inwardly as depression or outwardly as anger/rage. It also can come out through the physical body in the form of some dis-ease. It is time to break the cycle of non expression and let children know that feelings are ok no matter what they are.  It is ok for everyone to cry, be angry, be sad, be happy, etc. without being judged as being wrong.  

We can’t stop expression we just alter the way it is comes out.  When we attempt to curtail expression in the moment, whether in ourselves or someone else,we create gaps in our emotional body.  Our mind believes that when we suppress emotions they are  gone, nothing could be further from the truth.  It is still there, it is just in a different form.  The form it takes on is one of compression and pressurization. Now over a life time of avoiding emotional expression we can build up quite a bit of pressurization.  It takes a lot of energy to keep our held emotions in a compressed state.  When we do finally let some of the held emotion move it is usually when we have been triggered by a person/situation, the last straw.  This trigger usually has nothing to do with the held emotion, it is just a way of releasing some of the pressure.  We then link our outburst to that person/situation and blame them for our emotions.  We also judge ourselves for expressing so much. This causes the emotion to be driven back down into our subconscious where it waits for another trigger to help relieve the pressure.  The problem with this is that it never clears out the held emotion.   

Once the anger/rage is allowed to move and the compression is allowed to be released what is really going on can be uncovered.  The reason we see emotion move as anger/rage is because we are seeing an emotion that has been stuffed and held for a long time.   Any emotion that has been compressed can initially come out as rage/anger. If we are willing to allow the anger/rage to move we can find what is underneath.  In our experience what is underneath the anger/rage is always something different then what we thought.  We rarely allow ourselves or others to express the anger/rage long enough to get below it so that it can be released.  Because of our fear and our own uncomfortability we stop the process of emotional expression.  It then gets pushed down and continues to fester.  This is a continuous cycle that we are all too familiar with.  Once we overcome our fear that something terrible is going to happen and allow ourselves and others the opportunity to express their anger/rage we can start to release the held emotions that keep us from truly experiencing who we are.

So, if you can express whatever it is you are feeling in the moment and resist the urge to link it to anything, you can release it and move on.  When we link an emotion to a person/situation we begin to loop the feeling, which can and usually involves a lot of drama.  This reaction comes with a big expenditure of energy without any resolution.  It also tends to set up a repetitive pattern whenever faced with a similar person/situation.  When this happens it seems like we are really feeling what is going on when in reality we are avoiding really dealing with our true feelings.  The more this happens the more we believe that it is the outside world that controls how we feel.  Once you realize that you are the creator of your feelings then you can feel anything you desire at any time no matter the person/situation you are dealing with.  This is something children need to learn, that they create their feelings, that it is ok to express what it is they are feeling even if they don’t why.

Be present with whomever you are dealing with in the moment.  Children know when you are truly present with them and when you are not.  When speaking to a child they not only hear the words they also feel your presence.  If you are pre occupied with something else or you pull back your energy because of doubt, fear, etc. the child will pick up on it.  What they then will respond to is not the words but your lack of presence.  They feel the energetic gap that is created by your unwillingness to be fully present with them. 

We teach children to not feel because when they feel we have to feel and we don’t want to.  This is something that has been going on for a long time.  It is time to break the cycle of non expression and let children know that feelings are ok no matter what they are.  It is ok for everyone to cry, be angry, be sad, be happy, etc. without being judged as being wrong. When children are allowed to express their emotions in the moment it is less likely they will stuff them.  This can then eliminate a whole list of possible detrimental effects further down the road.

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