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Feel it, Express it, Release it

I have a three year old, which means for the past year we have been in the throes of tattletaling.  She has mastered this skill and made it into an art form which in turn has pushed the rest of us to become masters of extreme patience.  We have worked so hard with her to get her to verbalize her feelings and talk with the person she’s upset with.  It goes something like this:

Mom! Henry’s teasing!
Oh no!  How did that make you feel?
Mom, he’s just teasing, he’s not being a good listener!
Are you feeling mad?
No, I'm feeling frustrated!
Well, did you talk to him about it and tell him how it made you feel?
Henry, I feel frustrated because you’re teasing and that’s not being a good listener.
I’m sorry, Ellamae. I won’t tease anymore.
Ok, let’s go play!

A hundred times a day.  Over and over again.  Feel it, express it, release it.  Feel it, express it, release it.  And I think it’s actually working.  Truthfully, it has done nothing to reduce the amount of tattling, but it has taught her how to talk about her feelings, to recognize them and name them.  

Her dad and I are getting a divorce and it has turned her world upside down. At times it’s heartbreaking to watch her try and make sense of her new reality. I naively thought she wouldn't understand what was going on and would just go with the flow.  I thought as long as she was with one of us, she'd be okay.  But that's not been the case.  She is confused at times and doesn't have the vocabulary or ability to articulate that feeling, inevitably it ends up spilling out sideways.

The other day, she had a rough day.  She was extra sensitive and overreacting to small stressors.  When that happens we just try to love her through those times.  We try to understand that there are deeper emotions that are being played out through her frustration.  And we try to let it happen so those feelings don't get stuck inside her.  

At the end of the day, she and I were laying in bed and another tantrum rolled in.  She wanted to talk to her dad, but he wasn't available when we called.  She cried and screamed wanting to talk to her dad before she went to bed, refusing to lay down or be comforted.  After about 10 minutes, he was able to return her call and she sniffled through a FaceTime with him.  She wasn't really saying much, but was comforted by the sight of his face.  That bought us some peace for the moment.  

After they hung up, she snuggled in close to me and buried her head in the crook of my neck.  Her breath was soft on my neck and I could hear feel her breathing start to slow down.  She raised her head and whispered three little words, "I miss Daddy."  And then she looked at me, her eyes filling with tears.  And the best response I could come up with was, "I know you do, he misses you too."  She kept looking at me expectantly, so I added, "It's okay to be sad.  It's okay to cry when you're sad and missing someone."  And then she cried.  Silent "I miss Daddy" tears that spilled out the corners of her eyes and rolled down her cheeks. No anger, no frustration, just deep sadness.  And then she buried her head in my neck again and fell asleep.  Peace for the night.  Feel it, express it, release it.  

And I cried silent tears for her tender little heart that was experiencing such sadness and longing.  And I said a silent prayer that she would be able to release some of that sadness and confusion so that there will be room in heart for hope and joy.  It's the best I can do for her right now.  Acknowledge and honor her feelings, help ease them out when she's ready, all the while loving her through this process.  

Feel it, express it, release it.


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