Making sense of emotions an important prerequisite of good parenting

Making sense of emotions an important prerequisite of good parenting

Words: Fanie Heyns

CAPE TOWN. – In order for fathers and mothers to make time to share important values with their sons about how to respect and build a non-violent environment in which women and girls feel safe, the parents must connect well with their children.

A prerequisite for that connection is an awareness of emotions. This is an all-important prerequisite for good parenting from the inside out.

Claudia Roodt, the founder of Designed to Connect and associate of 1000 Women Trust, says communication that involves an awareness of our emotions, and ability to respectfully share our emotions, and an empathic understanding of our children’s emotions, lay a foundation that supports the building of lifelong relationships with our children.

As a parent, your ability to communicate about emotions support your child in developing a sense of vitality and empathy.

These qualities are important for the nurturing of close, intimate relationships throughout the life span.  Nurturing relationships involve the sharing and amplification of positive emotions and the soothing and reduction of negative ones.

Feelings are both the process and content of interpersonal connection between the parent and the child from the earliest days of life.

Emotional relating requires mindful awareness of our own internal state as well as being open to understanding and respecting our child’s state of mind.

We need to see a situation from our child’s point of view as well as our own.

When we are unaware of our own emotions or are paralyzed by leftover issues and the emotional reactions that come from them, this can be very hard to do.

It is important that we try to be aware of our own emotional processes and respect their central role in both our internal and interpersonal lives.  Children are particularly vulnerable to becoming the targets of the projection of our nonconscious emotions and unresolved issues.

Self-reflection and understanding of our internal processes allow us to choose a greater range of responses to our children’s behavior.  Awareness creates the possibility of choice.

When we are able to choose our response we are not being controlled by our emotional reactions that are often not directly connected to our children:  they are overreactions driven more by our own emotional state than by engaged emotional communication with our child at the moment.

The integration of our own self-knowledge facilitates our being open to the process of becoming emotionally connected with our children.

It is vital that parents are mindful of their own feelings and bodily responses and others’ nonverbal signals.

Allow your own state of mind to align with that of another.

Open your mind to sense another’s experience and point of view.

Communicate your internal responses with respect; make the internal external

Share openly in the give-and-take of communication, both verbally and nonverbally.

Help make sense of the experience of another.

Individuality:  Respect the dignity and uniqueness of each individual’s mind

An exercise to use to improve your awareness of your and your child’s emotions is to think of a time when you and your child had a different reaction to the same experience.

Try to see events from your child’s point of view.

How did you appraise the meaning of the experience differently?  How do you think your child would react if you offered him a view into how you made sense of the experience through his eyes?

1000 Women Trust mobilizes resources and gives grants to organizations that support, raise awareness, and provide opportunities for women and children who have been affected by violence. 1000 Women Trust provides solidarity to women, amplify the voices of activists, and advocate for change that can end gender-based violence and femicide.

The organization does this through various projects, grants, and training and fundraising initiatives to ensure that women and girls are empowered, inspired, educated, and equipped for daily life.

You can make contact with Roodt, by emailing her on

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