Emotional Literacy: The Self-Care Skill You Need to Thrive in Motherhood

Motherhood is an emotional journey filled with many emotions, not only the child but for parents! Babies, toddlers, children, tweens and teens experience A LOT of emotions growing up which can be exhausting for parents depending on a developmental age and stage of children.

For parents, the emotional experience at times can be complex and multilayered; managing personal emotions and experiences and reacting/responding to a child’s emotional experiences which can often be stressful and confusing at times, especially when you feel overwhelmed, ineffective and burned-out from parenting, work and all the supporting roles. 

I’ve learned from years of supporting parents as well as being a mom of four, one of the most crucial skills and abilities parents need to know: emotional literacy and emotional self-care (managing emotions and mental health).

Emotional literacy is being able to identify, label and communicate when necessary, your emotions and feelings. Emotional self-care is putting emotional literacy into practice by managing and taking care of emotional and mental health.

I’ve spent my life’s work to date supporting clients and teaching them the skills to identify, label and find skills and strategies to take care of emotional health and well-being. And this something I practice every day as a mom. Notice how I used the word ‘practice?’ Taking care of your emotional health in motherhood is not a one time event, or something you do for a stretch of time and master.

Instead, taking care of your emotional health and well-being is a practice, which means you have to bring the intention of caring for yourself, paired with awareness of what you are experiencing, and then deciding what skills and strategies to use to decrease stress and improve well-being. And as moms, we are always changing and growing, just as our children. Which is why taking care of your emotional health is a practice, and you know as well as I do-motherhood will provide LOTS of opportunities to develop the skills of managing emotions.

Here is what I want you to know as you practice emotional literacy and emotional self-care:

  1. Emotional experiences can be complex and multifaceted. You can have a moment of feeling ‘negative’ emotions-sadness, anger, guilt, anxiety, worry, disgust, shame, and rage, emotions I call the shadow emotions, and also feel appreciate being a mom and love your child at the SAME TIME. Experiencing a shadow emotion doesn’t mean you love your child less, or define you as a mom. All it means is you’re experiencing a shadow emotion and this is a signal to take care of yourself.
  2. Learning to label your emotional experiences take time and practice. When you experience an emotion, be as specific as you can when you experience an emotion. Instead of using a general broad term, be as specific and descriptive as you can. For example,  if you’re feeling angry, go a little deeper-are you annoyed, irritated, disappointed, enraged? Emotional literacy is being specific in labeling and identifying and describing your emotional responses.
  3. Taking care of YOURSELF is not only a gift you give to yourself, but a gift you give to your child. You are the most significant role model your child will ever have in their life. By taking care of yourself, you show and teach them how to take care of themselves.
  4. In order to help our children navigate their feelings and emotions, we as parents have to be able to manage our emotional experiences, and Mama, You Are Enough: How to Create Calm, Joy and Confidence Within the Chaos of Motherhood  is the resource and the road map to show you how. I’m so proud of this resource for mamas, years of wisdom and skills in the therapy room to help you thrive in motherhood. To purchase go here: Mama, You Are Enough. 
  5. Let go of being perfect. There is no one perfect mom, and YOU are EXACTLY the MOM your CHILD NEEDS, even when you’re having an emotional stretch of time when your feeling exhausted, guilty or overwhelmed.
  6. Embrace Curiosity and Let Go of Judgement. When it comes to emotional health, it is crucial to let go of judging yourself for having an emotional  response or shadow emotion. Instead reframe those judgmental thoughts and ask yourself: what is this shadow emotion trying to tell me right now? Is there something bothering me that I’ve ignored? Am I not taking care of my physical and emotional health and this shadow moment or shadow emotion is a way to get my attention and take care of something?

When we meet our emotions with curiosity and embrace them instead of judging, we open ourselves up to self-compassion which create a path to manage our emotional health and thrive in motherhood. 

© Dr. Claire Nicogossian 2020

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