Several studies have shown that coping with several emotions in childhood, both pleasant and unpleasant, is a guarantee of better mental health in adulthood. A theory that Héloise Junier, a child psychologist, doctor of psychology, explains for us.
If you are a parent, you know that there is no better feeling than seeing your child happy and fulfilled. In this quest, you are often capable of doing a lot to bring him what he needs or make him smile after a big heartbreak. With, in addition, the significant impression of being a good parent. Unfortunately, focusing on keeping him happy at all costs wouldn’t be so good at helping him grow.
Diversify emotions for better mental health
Going through difficult emotions would indeed be good for your child. More precisely, feeling a whole range of different emotions from the most pleasant to the least pleasant proves useful to one’s development. A recent study examined the emotional range of 37,000 people and found that those who experience “emodiversity,” an abundant range of emotions, have better mental health, decreased depression, better physical health and know how to manage a wide range of emotions. But recognizing him as a parent is not always easy.
Unpleasant experience is as useful as joy
For Héloise Junier, childhood psychologist, doctor of psychology and author of the comic book “Ma vie d’enfant” (Dunod, 2023), there is a difficulty in our culture in accepting everything that seems negative to us. And it starts from childhood.
“There is a very pronounced language bias among us. Parents will talk about their child’s positive or negative emotions themselves. And sadness or anger will be part of these negative emotions. Which already demonstrates a society’s rejection of these emotions. Among researchers we will rather describe them as “unpleasant”.”
However, feeling unpleasant emotions is not a harmful experience for the child. Quite the contrary:
“Parents must be reminded that so-called unpleasant emotions are not negative, but useful. If they exist, if they have persisted in evolution, it is because they have a meaning and a usefulness, whether for survival (at the start) as well as for the well-being and psychological balance of the person. ‘child. Even anger, which occurs in excess of stress, allows the child to find balance” recalls the psychologist.
Accompany the child rather than creating a distraction
But how can you have the right reaction to the thousand emotions that a young (or older) child can feel? For Héloise Junier, there is no question of gratuitously frustrating the child by saying that his sadness is good for him, but it is appropriate to support the child in his emotion, without wanting to hide it.
“When a child is stressed after a complicated day at school, when he is sad or under tension, many parents will try to hide this, to take his mind off things, to find something positive to avoid anger. underlying, because it is difficult to bear. But this same anger is important on a psychological level because it allows the child to regulate his emotions, to release accumulated tension, and to show him his own limits. The more the child is confronted with it, the more he will accept it as a useful emotion and will be balanced in the management of his emotions.”
Conversely, all diversion techniques to avoid an unpleasant emotion can be effective in the moment, but are “like a big lid on boiling milk” and do not teach the child to regulate themselves. As unnatural as it may seem, letting the child be afraid when he reaches too high, frustrated when he fails at an assignment, or angry when he experiences disappointment will shape the way he reacts and moves forward with more discernment. .