Be the umbrella (or how not to rain emotional stress on your little ones)

English: Maayan holds her umbrella (Israel, 2002)

An old boss of mine once said her job was to be an umbrella, that no matter how much sh*t rained from upper management, her role (in her eyes) was to make sure none of it affected us, her team, so we could stay happy, engaged and productive.

I think the same is true of parenting, somehow. No matter how much emotional stress I am under, I feel it is my job to keep it from passing on to my little one. I need to be her umbrella.

It is not about being fake, it is about being conscious, it is about being aware of the energy I am bringing to this relationship, at this time and about choosing to channel, release and express my anger or frustration in ways that do not negatively impact upon her… as much as I can. This also doesn’t mean she shouldn’t see me being angry. Anger is okay, it is natural – but I want to learn to model healthy ways of expressing it, rather than being blindly lead by it or repressing it all together.

This is the intention. Aim for the moon, if you want to hit the top of the trees (… with your umbrella??)

For anyone left wondering, here are some suggestions of healthy ways to express and/or release your anger:

  1. Talk to a trusted, non-judgemental, grown-up friend
  2. Exercise, dancing, jumping, running… basically getting physical and releasing that pent up energy
  3. Shout with your child(ren), somewhere deep in nature, near the train line as a train passes, inside a car on the freeway, with the windows up, or in space – anywhere where no-one can hear you.
  4. Sing, at the top of your lungs – maybe an angry song, maybe not, maybe just something that gets you going
  5. Punch a pillow or the mattress
  6. Let all the sound out of your body. Okay this sounds weird but it is amazing. I used to do it in the shower or in ‘meditation’. You just open your mouth and breathe out sound – loudly. Let it all out, whatever sound comes out. Often it is quite primal, guttural (much like birthing groans, actually)
  7. Laugh – sometimes humour is the best way to get some perspective and get past the little stuff
  8. Ritualise… hmm… it is hard to put this in words, as it may get misconstrued (or I might just explain it really badly) but, sometimes when you feel an urge to hit somebody you can tickle them instead or if you want to shout you can mock-shout instead – essentially take the seriousness out of the moment but let that energy move forward in the direction it wants to go. It is kind of like taking the horns out of the bull but still letting him tackle you (horrible as that image is – for the bull); or it is like how some people will say sports are tribal violence ritualised – you still get the factions and the belonging and the adversarialism without the killing. Anyway, the important thing is that you don’t deny but transmute the energy of anger into something lighter and more fun. Experiment with it – start with the little things – and let me know if it works for you.
  9. Meditate – in whatever way makes sense to you. It is important that this isn’t used as a sneaky, spiritual way to repress your anger, though. Don’t let the fragrance of spiritual peace fool you into thinking anger is something to be avoided. Enlightenment is not being ‘free’ of emotions but being beyond them or detached from them, does that make sense? Let the anger be there. Find out for whom the anger arises. Knowing yourself and being in tune with that – that is what we are aiming for here.
  10. Spend time in nature, breathe it in, feel the wind, listen to the waves, sit under the tree. You will experience healing of the Heart, for sure.

— — —

What activities would you add to express, release or transmute the energy of anger in healthy ways?


12 thoughts on “Be the umbrella (or how not to rain emotional stress on your little ones)

  1. Hi, found my way here via Sunday Surf. I love this post! I’ve heard about the ritualizing practice, but I haven’t tried it yet. I’m definitely going to because it sounds incredibly effective. Letting the sound out also sounds like it could work for me.

    Something similar I do with my son comes from a yoga pose, the lion pose. He loves to practice yelling and expressing power when he’s not angry. It’s pretty cute and teaches him not to fear his own anger. We also punch the couch together sometimes when either of us gets frustrated…but it usually evolves into laughter. I guess that’s working!

    Thanks for the great ideas and the lovely reminder that it’s OK to end up among the treetops. :) Happy New Year!

    • Treetops would be GREAT!! And yep laughter means lots of release of smaller tensions. It is amazingly effective. I have actually done ‘laughter meditations’ before now – for up to an hour!!! It is amazing how clearing they can be. It usually starts with somebody telling a joke and then, if you are in a group, you are off – one person laughs and that usually sets the other people off, especially if one of them has a funny, infectious laugh (which invariably somebody does!). Love it. Should have added that!!

      And I love the punching and shouting, practicing power when not angry. There is a practice like that for helping kids with lots of fear, too. You provide opportunities for them to play-power. You essentially prettend to provide some kind of resistance and let them push to overcome you. The safety in doing it with you comes from the fact that you always (or almost always) let them win (which doesn’t happen with their peers). So, like you say, it helps them really push through their fear (or inadequacy of standing up for themselves of people more powerful than them) and play the part of the victor agains adversity. The book ‘Playful Parenting’ has some more examples like this. Have you read that? It is fab!

      Thanks for commenting. Lovely to ‘meet’ you. Hugs,

  2. What a fabulous post!! We do a lot of what you listed! One of our favorites is to take all of our glass containers that go to the recycling center and smash them in to the glass collection while yelling out what has frustrated us that day or week or whenever… It’s powerful, my five year old really gets it and enjoys the experience a lot too! I wrote a post on ways children can deal with anger, the lions pose and gorilla walk we do too!!

  3. As a parent we sometimes get to watch our children throw great big crying tantrums. They are releasing anger, tention and frustration. But… it can be really fun to throw an adult tantrum. You may want to do this alone, but doing it with a friend can feel so good and release alot of emotion. I recently tried this and ended up laughing hard at myself. It allowed me to release my own feelings and feel powerful.

    Thank you for the article and list of ways to release emotions. I agree with you and believe it is so important for parents to attend to themselves, so they they can stay attuned to their children.


    • Yes – throwing our own tantrums, having our own emotional freedom is soooo important (and so underrated). I am not very good at it. I am actually on the repressing my emotions end-of-the-spectrum most often and need techniques and ‘permission’ not just to feel but to fully express those emotions – with my whole body. So, yeah, I can see how letting myself have a tantrum could be incredibly cathartic! :)

  4. I followed a link from creative with kids to find you blog and I am so glad I did…

    This post is fabulous! Last year I was working on watching my tone and ‘being queen of my home’ and I think this post sums up the next step for me.

    Thank you for sharing.

    • Thank you. Yes, this is very much my ‘learning edge’, too :)

      I would say I have been working on this for years – expressing my feelings fully while also being sensitive and empathic. Not easy (for me, at least) but very worth while. I feel I get ‘closer to myself’ as well as to others. Keep up your own good work – sounds like you are really putting energy and awareness into your behaviour in parenting and beyond. That is great!

  5. Pingback: You made me do it you fool! « HOW TO MAN UP

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