Labeling emotions

My little angel on Earth and I have been attending counseling to help with some behavior challenges. I am still not sure if they are his challenges, or mine, but I felt like we could use some help. So I took a recommendation from his preschool principal, and we have found someone that is helping us communicate better.

Most of my friends and family say, ‘oh, he’s just a five year old boy.’ But to me, if I am struggling and he is struggling, why wait until he potentially ‘grows out of it,’ and get some advise on how to interact a little bit better. I like a peaceful household, and I want to enjoy the time I have with my son while he still wants to be around his mommy.

Our last session, we learned about labeling emotions. Part of the challenge, it seems, is that he acts out because he is unable to express how he is truly feeling. So instead, he tantrums, whines, or cries. This only elevates me, because I don’t understand why things that are seemingly so easy, become so difficult.

The counselor let him choose if he wanted to make faces and let Mommy draw, or have me make faces and he would draw. He chose to draw, which I loved, and I got to make the faces. First we did ‘happy.’ I looked at him with a big toothy grin, and he drew two huge roundish eyes, and what appeared to be a very big smile. The face was distorted (and adorable) and he and I agreed that the face looked happy.

Next was sad. I gave him a frowny face with my bottom lip sticking out, and he drew what looked exactly like our nose-less happy face with the smile turned upside down. Then we did angry. That face was similar too, but the mouth was kind of zig-zaggy.

For the next week, we referred to the little chart which now hangs on our refrigerator with a clip that we can move with our mood. He constantly asks me, ‘Mommy, are you happy?’ And points to the chart. Usually, I say yes, look at him with my toothy smile, and we laugh.

One morning, he walked over to the chart, moved the clip and said, ‘Mommy, I am sad.’ I went over and hugged him and asked why he was sad. He went on to tell me that he misses the dinosaurs. They aren’t on Earth anymore, and he is sad he will never see them. We talked for the rest of the morning, and all the way to school, about the dinosaurs. His classroom aide asked why he was sad and I told her about the dinosaurs. The next morning, his teacher told me he cried for another half hour after school started because he missed the dinosaurs.

As absurd as it was, this emotional experience with my little angel gave me a sense of empathy that I don’t know I’ve ever had. He was so, so sad. Not screaming, whining, fake sad. Truly grieving, crocodile tear, sad. And I get it.

It wasn’t about dinosaurs. It was about true, raw emotion. And being able to identify that. He has sadness. I have sadness. And together, we will learn to let it out, understand it, and label those emotions.

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