Teaching our kids to take control of their feelings

The following post involves discussing the election with our older son, but it is NOT meant to be a political post by any means.  This post is a reference on how we discuss situations with our kids, and how we may teach them to use outside situations to better control our everyday lives.  I recognize that my current life situation is very different from others in our country, and the current election may be influencing all of us in different ways, including anger, fear, concern, or other feelings.  

On Wednesday evening I was driving home with our older son in the car when he started talking about the election.  The following is a transcript of our conversation, followed by my thoughts on it.

Son: “Dad, I really like this radio station.  They play really good country music.”

Me: “I agree.  They always have good songs on here to listen to.”

Son: “I bet they will start talking about the election soon, won’t they?”

Me: “Well I doubt it.  Everyone is feeling stress about the election, and so I bet they will just play music to give everyone a place to relax.”

Son: “Are you feeling stressed about the election?”

Me: “Well, I feel stressed from time to time.  There is a lot going on with this election, and it will probably take a while for it to finish.  I hope the person I voted for becomes President, but there is a chance they don’t.  If that happens I have to learn to be ok with that and accept that that is how our country was made and how the process works.  Everyone gets a chance to vote for who they like, and in the end the winner may not be who you wanted.”  

Son: “But won’t that make you stressed or angry if your person does not win?”

Me:  “Well I may initially feel frustrated with it.  But then what can I do to change it?  I voted, so I did my part.  But I have to accept that there are things outside of my control.  If I let the situation of another person being elected President affect the way I feel, then I let that situation control my life.  Do you think it is good to let something you have no control over negatively control your everyday feelings?”

Son: “Well I guess not.”

Me: “There are a lot of things in the world that will make us happy and sad.  However, the one thing we have to remember is to NOT allow things outside of our control have influence on how you feel on a daily basis.  For example, if you wanted to play outside and it started to rain, would you get mad at the rain?”

Son: “Well, maybe.”

Me: “Can you control the rain?”

Son: “No I guess not.”

Me: “That’s right!  But what you can control is how you feel about that moment and what you do with your time after that.  It may not be what you planned, but you can control how you move forward.”

Son: “Oh ok, I think I get it.”

It is easy to let the uncontrollable take hold of our everyday lives and feelings.  

I hope my son gets it.  It is really easy to allow the uncontrollable dominate our lives.  One look at the news or social media and you can find anyone arguing about pretty much anything.  I get that this election is traumatic for a lot of people and in no way disregard those people and their specific situations.  We have discussed with our older son how lucky our lives are and the advantages we have over others.  But the lesson above is not just about the election.  It is about everything.

In a previous post I discussed using the CTFAR method to affect how we think and feel based on certain circumstances.  That concept comes in to play here as well.  We all have a choice to let outside situations affect how we feel on a daily basis.  I am sure many of us have found we are a little more short tempered or quick to frustration in this last week compared to how we were leading up to it.  However, it is truly up to us to learn to manage our thoughts and feelings based on varying circumstances and situations.

When you recognize that your emotions or reactions are being controlled by something you can’t control, you have two choices.  

1) Continue allowing it to affect how you feel on a daily basis, which most likely will lead to it getting worse.

2) Recognize your lack of control over the circumstance, but DO recognize what you CAN control about it.  Then make a plan from there.

We all struggle with outside influences and how it affects us.  It is never too late to start recognizing this and making changes for the future.  It is also important to teach our kids how to do this as well.  

Take care of each other.  

Imperfect Dad MD

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