Intentional parenting

5 ways emotions are like finances

When you ask a pregnant woman if she’s having a boy or girl, she’ll often reply with “I don’t know, but I just want a happyand healthy baby.” When she responds this way, she’s not just saying she wants the birth to go well; she’s saying she wants her child to be happy and healthy beyond the birth. Hearing this over and over again has made me realise that we talk about emotions as though they’re end states.

But emotions are not end states. They are by-products. We have to be aware of this because the way we understand emotions has an impact on the way we go about pursuing them for ourselves and invoking them in others.Finances are a good analogy for emotions. Here are 5 examples:

Diversifying is important

Diversifying your assets is a great way to protect yourself against risk. The belief is that it’s better to acquire various assets in addition to cash (such as shares and property) instead of focusing just on being cash rich.  This is the same when it comes to emotions.

Teaching and modelling to children that one emotion is the be all and end all is setting them up to fail (e.g. happiness or pleasure). Children need to diversify their emotions and we need to assist them to do so.

Of course we want our children to be happy. But what other emotional assets will stand them in good stead? If we view creativity as an emotional asset, we need to provide our children with environments conducive to that. If we view the ability to trust as an asset, we need to model trust by delivering on our promises. If we view pride in oneself as an asset, we need to name and praise our children’s achievements; large and small. If we want them to be independent thinkers, we can’t tell them to shut up every time they ask the question ‘why?’… You get the picture.

Diversifying is also about teaching our children how to manage more than one emotion at the same time, like how to balance the motivation to succeed with the fear of failure. It’s about understanding that conflicting emotions can be felt at the same time and that one can add value to the other.

Helping our children diversify their emotional assets will help them navigate life’s low points because they will know that in times of difficulty, they have other assets to draw upon.

Regular deposits are essential

You can deposit a lump sum of money into your account, but unless you’re earning a lot of interest on it, you’re not making your money work for you. One way to build wealth is by regularly depositing money into your account. Same goes for emotions.

In order for a child to build emotional wealth, they have to continually ‘top-up’ their emotions. If you want your child to be rich in empathy for example, you have to encourage them to continually practise it. You have to talk with them about it and model it to them often.

Bear in mind also that some emotions, like empathy, require more deposits than others, because they’re harder to learn than emotions like fear.

Budgeting is key

Children learn to budget money from a young age. They need to learn to budget their emotions too.

This is about getting the child to think about what emotions they want to allocate most of their time and energy to and why. This process recognises that some emotions, such as optimism, are felt by choice; not because they are default emotions.

It’s also about teaching the child to budget for negative emotions, not just positive ones. For instance, they need to know that the experience of grief is inevitable and that grief can trump the ability to be emotionally ‘strong’ and that that’s okay.

Debt is real

When your account balance drops to $0, not only do you have nothing left to spend, you also need to come up with a way to earn more money.

Emotional debt can arise when we no longer have the ability to feel a certain emotion, like when you have a prolonged argument with someone and you become so drained that you just can’t be angry anymore. Emotional debt can also result from a traumatic event, like when your trust is violated and you feel like it cannot be restored.

Emotional debt can be hard to get out of, and can have long lasting impacts on a child. Plus, in order for the child to become debt free, the emotional deposits have to be larger than they are with simple ‘top-ups.’ For instance, a child who has been abused needs to be reassured of their safety many more times than another child does before they actually feel safe.

The global financial crisis (GFC) is memorable

Those who lost a lot in the GFC vividly remember where they were and what they were doing when they found out the value of their assets had plummeted. The crisis caused fear, uncertainty, stress, anger and grief.

The crucial point here is that negative emotions are more memorable than positive ones. There’s no doubt we can quickly recall the times we have felt embarrassed or ashamed, while some of happiest memories are foggy.

Feeling negative emotions is important, and in some cases, they’re vital for survival (e.g. fear as a fight or flight response). But we need to remember that negative emotions are not counteracted by just one positive one. When your child is experiencing an emotional crisis, they need to experience a number of positive emotions before they feel at ease again. Think of a child who’s scared of the dark – they need to be reassured a thousand times that they’re safe, not just told once.

Emotions are not end states. They are by-products of our experiences, thoughts and actions.

Just like we do with our bank accounts, we need to check in on our children’s emotional wellbeing regularly. We need to seek advice if we need to. And we constantly need to evaluate how we can achieve better outcomes.

Devoting time and energy to the emotional wellbeing of our children is one of the best investments we can make – we will prosper and so will they.

Have a great week!

Beth x

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