Emotions, Emotions Emotions!
It’s no secret, parenting or supporting a child who has a disability, is an emotionally charged situation. While everyone faces adversity at some point in their life, your role as a parent or caregiver, is one of the most challenging experiences a person could face.
From the moment your child is diagnosed, the shocking news and the feelings that follow, can grab hold of and control your life. It doesn’t take long for you to begin to feel overwhelmed and exhausted.
Making decisions, your happiness, and supporting your child are all affected by your mood and your emotional state of mind. Relationships with your partner, children, extended family, friends, teachers, health care professionals, social workers, and other community support people, are also impacted by your feelings and temperament.
Rather than dealing with difficult emotions, some people try to avoid them. Putting your emotional well-being “on the back burner” seems like the right thing to do. Most people whom I have coached have said, “I don’t have time to think about how I feel, I have to take care of the matters at hand. I have to ensure that I have everything in place for my child.”
It is true, that it takes a lot of time and energy to advocate for and plan on behalf of your child however, its learning how to be aware of your emotions and the impact on yourself and others, that is key to healing and becoming resilient during challenging times.
Emotional intelligence, is the ability to identify and manage your own emotions and the emotions of others. According to Steven J. Stein, PhD and and Coauthor of the EQ Edge: Emotional Intelligence and Your Success, people who are considered to be emotionally intelligent are those who:
- Successfully manage difficult situations
- Express themselves clearly
- Gain respect from others
- Influence other people
- Keep cool under pressure
- Recognize their emotional reactions to people or situations
- Know how to say the “right” thing to get the right result
- Motivate themselves to get things done
- Know how to be positive, even during difficult situations
If you don’t recognize yourself in these qualities, don’t sweat. Just like developing a new skill, such as learning to play golf or taking a computer literacy course, you can work on your ability to manage your emotions and the emotions of others, with practice.
We all know that there are two sides to every story. Whether it be your partner, spouse, friends, family, teachers, support professionals, everyone has a different role in you and your child’s life.
In my opinion, one of the most important things you can do is to understand the perspective of others.
I am not suggesting that you give up your position on a particular matter, rather the goal is to find a balanced solution.
You cannot control the way others behave or interact. What you can do is control how you respond. Emotional intelligence is more about being able to read the other person and using your emotions in a way that encourages others to listen. This strengthens what you have to say, and it can improve your relationship.
Please remember, not everyone is a natural for having optimal emotional intelligence. The good news is that you can work on refining your skills. Just like learning a new skill or getting your muscles into shape, it will take some work on your part. Here is how you can get started:
- Become more aware of your emotions. Have a piece of paper with you at all times and write down how you feel throughout the day. This will give you a good idea of how you feel during a variety of situations and in interactions with others.
- Respond, don’t react. Be patient. Try not to let anger overcome you or the situation. Think about the other person’s feelings and respond accordingly. If you don’t think you can respond in a way that will keep it positive, then give yourself some time to reflect and think about how you want to continue the conversation.
- Focus on the topic, rather than on the people. We all have our own personality. When discussing an important matter, stay focused on the goal and what you are trying to accomplish. Become the other person’s ally in reaching the same goal. This way you can more easily work together to reach that goal.
- Listen and empathize. I can’t emphasize enough that simply listening to someone and acknowledging that you understand their point of view, will do wonders for your relationship and it will help you find a more sustainable outcome. Before you say something, think about how the other person will feel.
My Emotional Beginning
I had an eerie feeling during my pregnancy. I couldn’t define what I was feeling, call it a premonition, a hunch, that something was going to be wrong.
I remember the day that we went to the hospital; I was excited for the arrival of our child and I was a little sad to leave our older son, Adam, with my parents.
As things progressed, I was a little perturbed when my doctor said that I wasn’t quite ready to deliver, and presented me with a choice – to get induced the next day or wait another week and because of government cutbacks, I would risk the possibility of going through labor and delivery in the emergency room. Of course, I didn’t want that to happen so I agreed to be induced the following day…
As the nurse placed my son into my arms, I felt so happy and proud. He was perfectly pink and he was so handsome. I enjoyed a moment of peace with my child.
All of a sudden, and without warning, the nurse cried out, “This baby is tugging” and he was whisked away for testing. We didn’t see him for quite some time and we were very concerned.
After what seemed like an eternity, we were brought to the special care nursery. Our son was getting oxygen and he was struggling to breathe. “What happened?”, we wondered. We felt confused, uncertain, and uneasy.
Over the next few days, our son wasn’t settled. And we weren’t settled either. It was so difficult to feed him. He wouldn’t latch on so we had to splash water onto my breast so that he could taste the liquid and know that it was time to eat. It was exhausting and we were feeling so overwhelmed that we couldn’t concentrate on anything but keeping him settled and fed. We didn’t even have time to take a break and to give our baby, a name.
About a week after our son was born, whom we finally had named Eric, the nurses were expressing their concern about him. “Something is wrong,” they expressed. The doctor didn’t agree and believed that we had a normal, healthy baby. The doubt however, was also in our minds. This was definitely different than our first child.
A couple of days after that conversation, the nurses couldn’t settle Eric, no matter what they tried. As soon as I held him, he quieted down. He was scared. The doctor said that it would be a good idea to transfer him to another hospital to get some further tests done. I was scared. Lou was scared. We were all scared and we didn’t know what to expect.
Once we were at the hospital, I wanted to scream and shout at everyone. “What the heck is going on and why is this happening to us?” It wasn’t fair.
To make a long story short, the search for a diagnosis for Eric went on for almost 3 years. It was never found. We lived with uncertainty for the almost 15 years of his life.
During the course of Eric’s life, we were involved with so many people. Whether it was family, friends or professionals, relationships with others were a huge part of our life
Did we feel anger? Yes. Resentment? Yes. Frustration? Yes. Exhaustion. Yes, yes. Loneliness? Absolutely. Fear? Without a doubt. Pain? All the time.
We could have focused on all of the bad feelings, and believe me, there were many, yet somehow we were able to manage our extremely difficult situation and move forward.
Without realizing it at the time, we were practicing our emotional intelligence skills each and every day.
While it might not be easy, you can feel positive during a challenging time in your life. Be aware of how you are feeling, consider the other point of view, focus on what you want to achieve and respond to others with patience and empathy. You will see a transformation in how you feel and more importantly, the difference it can make for others.
I wish you all the best in your journey.