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Children deal with feelings and trauma in three different ways: repression, aggression, and expression.

As adults, our life is largely influenced by what we experienced in our childhood. As the world deals with the pandemic and children are left puzzled, having to process their feelings in a strange new environment, it is important that their parents and mentors help them become emotionally intelligent.

In her TEDx Talk, educator and counsellor Lael Stone touches upon this subject, and mentions how the lack of emotional literacy has significant power when it comes to the way we parent. “Even though we are doing better in understanding things like mindfulness, empathy, compassion, resilience and vulnerability, I see that the increasing rates of distress in adults is deeply rooted in the imprints we received as children, around how to express feelings and emotions.”

Stone goes on to say that while it may be easy to blame our parents for what they did, or didn’t do, they “were doing the best job they knew how”. “They were either doing what was done to them, or perhaps they swing so far in the other direction — ‘I am going to do the exact opposite’,” she says.

Stone believes the issue lies in the lack of emotional literacy. That it happens because parents are not taught to respond to children’s feelings and emotions with compassion.

“Somehow, we still value IQ far more than we value EQ. I wonder if from the beginning we were told that childhood defines adult mental health, whether we would take greater care to nurture a child’s soul.”

She says that children deal with feelings and trauma in three different ways: repression, aggression, and expression. “What we need as humans, is a safe place to unpack all of who we are. We need boundaries and holding, but we also need empathy and compassion for all those big feelings that rise within. So, instead of trying to fix my kid’s problems, instead of trying to make them happy all the time, I just got down low and I said, ‘Tell me all about it.’ And I just listened.”

She goes on to say that research shows when children feel safe to learn, when they feel free of judgment and criticism, and are treated with kindness and respect, have autonomy over their bodies and learning, their neurological systems become fully operational, and their capacity for growth and learning increases.

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