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The Best Thing a Parent Can do for a Highly Emotional Child.

The Best Thing a Parent Can do for a Highly Emotional Child.

As a therapist I see many kids and teens who experience extreme emotions. Some have mental health conditions such as depression or another mood disorder, and some do not. In either case, many parents want to know, “What causes my child to feel so sad, lonely, depleted, apathetic, or angry?!” and some parents even go on to add, “I give her everything. She has a great life. There is no reason for her to feel this way.” (Yes, the “I give her everything” statement is the one I hear most often.)

The Possible 3 Causes of Mood Disturbances

Questions like the previously mentioned are my cue to meet that parent’s fears and pain by gently explaining some of the theories of the causes of mood disturbances. Basically, there are lots of fancy names for the theories, but the causes are typically a number of the following factors working in combination:

1. Biological factors: neurotransmitters, hormones, neurological differences, etc

2. Environmental stresses: Hopeless, painful, overwhelming, and lonely scenarios and an invalidating environment

3. Individual temperament: the child’s ways of thinking, threshold of tolerance for emotional discomfort, etc.

Nowhere in that explanation does it imply that a child’s depression is caused by its parents not giving it enough.

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I often see extreme emotions and/or mood disorders as being a result of a combination of all three of the causes listed above.

So how are each of these causes addressed? If necessary, a pediatric psychiatrist or family physician may address the biological components of extreme moods and behaviors. An individual therapist can work with the child to increase her personal distress tolerance and coping skills and shift her ways of thinking to be less problematic. And parents can work to address environmental factors. This is why parental consultation and often family therapy is very helpful for the child’s emotional well-being.

Creating a validating environment

But what is the most important thing that a parent can do for a highly emotional child?

The best way for parents to address environmental factors is to create what is called a “validating environment.” This means hearing and honoring the perspective of the child and who the child is even when the perspectives of the child are not pleasant, are hard to hear, or are inconsistent with what the parents want. In other words, letting the child know that her feelings are understandable, and that it’s okay to be yourself.

4 Examples of Invalidation vs. Validation

Some examples of validation vs. invalidation are as follows:

1. Invalidation: “Just relax. It’s not that bad.”

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Validation: “I can see how that would be upsetting.”

2. Invalidation: “You didn’t really mean that.”

Validation: “Tell me more about that.”

3. Invalidation: “Stop getting so angry.”

Validation: “It’s okay to feel angry, and I can see why you’d be angry, but it’s not okay to hit the wall.”

4. Invalidation: “How could you be so selfish!?”

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Validation: “I could see how you would be compelled to do that, but we need to talk about a way to make everyone happy, not just you.”

3 Reasons Why Invalidation arises

Often barriers which prevent validating environments occur because of one of these 3 reasons:

1. Parents really don’t relate to their child being so upset.

They legitimately cannot understand why or how a child could be so emotional, and commonly get annoyed or dismissive with the child’s feelings. In this case, it is sometimes helpful to think of your child as a “highly sensitive person” (See “The Highly Sensitive Child” by Elaine Aron) instead of flawed and problematic. Think about what it must be like to go through life as such a highly sensitive person and begin to appreciate your child for who it is.

2. Parents’ own anxieties are triggered when their child has difficult or extreme emotions.

Sometimes their anger or fears of inadequacy are triggered when they are unable to “cure” or “change” their child, so they try to talk the child out of their feelings, deny the reality of the child’s perspective, or ignore the child’s feelings.

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3. The parents’ sense of “right and wrong” conflict with who the child is.

Sometimes parents have learned that some very basic and healthy aspects of human nature are “wrong.” Often a child’s anger or sadness or pride or selfish impulse is seen with invalidation or disgust instead of being seen as natural and making sense given the situation and human nature. Kids in shame-filled, overly-controlled, or strictly dogmatic environments are often given messages that their anger, emptiness, unhappiness, sadness, sexuality, or pride are “wrong”.

So why am I making such a big deal about the importance of creating a validating environment for a kid? Because one in five kids are estimated to be highly sensitive, and emotional sensitivity plus invalidating environment is the perfect recipe for a child to end up on my therapy couch. And in a weird way, less business for me is a good thing for the world.

For more information on the importance of validating children, check out the book “The Power of Validation” by Karyn D. Hall.

Featured photo credit: grietgriet via mrg.bz

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Last Updated on September 17, 2018

10 Reasons Why You Should Get Naked More Often

10 Reasons Why You Should Get Naked More Often

Getting naked is often thought of as an act that should only be reserved for intimacy—and even then some get squirmy! Many people are more comfortable believing that the more clothes you are wearing the better. However, getting naked more often can have great benefits for you. Here are 10 great reasons to get naked more often:

1. It burns more fat.

Your body’s main supply of brown adipose tissue (BAT), or good fat cells, are located around your shoulder blades and neck. When your body is exposed to the elements and is cooler, the BAT proliferates and essentially kills the white adipose tissue, aka bad fat cells. So, not wearing any clothes helps promote this and makes you healthier.

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2. You’ll become comfortable with who you are.

Self-acceptance is hard to come by today. Ask anyone you know and see if they are happy with themselves. Chances are they will say they are too fat, not pretty, and find all of the flaws that they can. In reality, others do not see this. They see that you are beautiful. When you begin to get naked, you learn to appreciate your body and realize how beautiful you really are.

3. It saves you money.

Being naked more often saves on buying new clothing since you are wearing nothing a lot of the time. Be careful when you are in public, though—you may have to put on some clothes!

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4. It increases your immune system.

Being naked and getting exposure to the sun’s rays actually increases your body’s vitamin D levels. Vitamin D is directly related to your immune system. When you have optimal levels of vitamin D, your body’s immune system is impeccable, and you will be better equipped to ward off viruses, including the common cold and flu. So go lay outside naked on your private balcony or in your yard.

5. It makes you face your fears head on.

People cringe today when you mention the words “get naked.” They are so afraid of it—and today’s children are so ingrained with this—that they must wear layer upon layer to deal with their body image. However, when you are naked, you face your fears of body image and self-acceptance, experiencing some of the best moments of your life.

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6. You will feel better in your clothes.

When you do wear clothes (because not everyone has yet accepted being naked in public), you will start to choose clothing that accentuates the parts of your body that you love. You will begin to notice that maybe that muumuu does not flatter your beautiful curves and start wearing clothes that you love.

7. You will embrace vulnerability.

When you put yourself out there, it is a natural reaction to have fear and worry. However, this is an opportunity to embrace being vulnerable. It allows you to think and get down to the core of what really matters and what is of importance to you. When you strip away all of the excess, you are 100% you and willing to take on anything that comes your way.

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8. You will show the world the real you.

Today, we have many ways of altering our appearance from our true body image when we wear clothing. Some people alter their image so much that they fear getting naked with the person they love. It seems crazy that this could even happen; however, the rise in use of breast-enhancing bras and Spanx products has put this idea into people’s minds. This all goes back to being comfortable with your true body image. If a person really does love you, then they should not love you based upon your image. If they do, then you may even decide that the ever-so-uncomfortable leggings that go up above your waist to hold in all of the imperfections may not be worth it after all.

9. You will have fun.

Well, this could go in all sorts of directions. But when you are comfortable with your naked body and see it as being flattering, then life is more fun. You start realizing that you are beautiful and are willing to do more things that you probably would not have done otherwise—with and without your clothes on.

10. You can have intercourse with the lights on.

Many people are self-conscious about the way they look and decide that the less lighting the better when they are intimate with their partner. It’s nothing new. If you survey your best friends, you will probably come to this conclusion too. They may say that it even gets awkward, because they are more concerned with what their partner thinks of their body than just having and enjoying amazing intercourse. When you love the way you look naked, you will also want to have your partner see you at your best.

What are you waiting for? Start spending more time in the buff today and begin to change the way you think about your body.

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