Emotional parenting: Navigating anger and attachment

Parenting is an adventure filled with love, laughter, and learning but, sometimes, it's also a puzzle with pieces we're still figuring out. Our actions as parents profoundly shape how our children understand and express their emotions. However, we might not always realise that our responses to feelings like anger or attachment can deeply influence our children's emotional development. This oversight can have lasting effects on how our children navigate their feelings and relationships as they grow.


Anger in parenting

Have you ever heard of an 'anger iceberg'? It's like when you only see the tip of an iceberg above the water, but there's a whole lot more underneath. Well, with emotions, especially anger, it's kind of the same. What we show on the outside might be just a tiny bit of what's really going on inside.

For example, when someone gets angry, they might yell or slam a door, but that's just the surface. Underneath, there could be all sorts of feelings, like hurt, frustration, or sadness. The anger iceberg helps us understand that there's usually more going on beneath the surface, and it's important to explore those deeper feelings to understand what's really going on.

Just as a kettle heats up with pressure until it reaches a boiling point, anger can simmer beneath the surface until it erupts.

Anger, a natural emotion, can be particularly tricky to navigate in parenting. Throughout history, different cultures and families have viewed anger in various ways. Some see it as a sign of strength, while others perceive it as being 'naughty' or 'bad'.

These beliefs can deeply influence how we respond when our children express anger. We may instinctively punish or scold them, inadvertently teaching them that their feelings are unacceptable. But, in reality, our children's anger is a normal part of their emotional landscape, and it's essential to help them learn how to manage it healthily.

How do attachment styles affect parenting?

Attachment styles also play a significant role in how children learn to regulate their emotions. When parents respond to their children's needs with empathy and understanding, it fosters a sense of security and trust. But, when children's emotions are dismissed or invalidated, it can lead to feelings of insecurity and anxiety. This can impact how children relate to others and manage their emotions as they grow.

For positive attachment, imagine the roots of a healthy tree firmly grounded in nutrient-rich soil. Just as these roots provide stability and nourishment for the tree to grow strong and tall, a secure attachment style in childhood lays the foundation for healthy relationships and emotional resilience in adulthood.

On the other hand, insecure attachment could be likened to roots struggling to find purchase in rocky or barren soil. These roots may be shallow and easily uprooted, leading to difficulties in forming trusting relationships and coping with life's challenges in adulthood.

How to strengthen a parent-child relationship

Creating a strong bond with our children is super important for their happiness and how they get along with others later on. As grown-ups, we can do a few things to help build this bond.

First off, we need to be there for our kids when they need us, like when they're upset or scared. Listening to them and giving them a hug can make a big difference. It's also important to set some rules and make sure our kids feel safe and know what to expect. By being kind, understanding, and consistent, we can help our kids feel loved and secure, which is the foundation for healthy relationships in the future.
When children's feelings, including anger, are ignored or punished, it can create a taboo around expressing emotions. They may learn to suppress their feelings, fearing judgment or rejection. This suppression can lead to a host of issues, including anxiety, depression, and difficulty forming healthy relationships. It's essential to create a safe space where children feel comfortable expressing their emotions without fear of reprisal.

Positive parenting offers an alternative approach, emphasising empathy, understanding, and effective communication. Instead of reacting to children's anger with punishment or dismissal, parents can validate their feelings and help them find constructive ways to express themselves. This might involve teaching them coping strategies like deep breathing or encouraging them to use words to express their feelings.

Building a secure attachment with our children is also crucial for helping them manage their emotions. By consistently responding to their needs with love and understanding, we provide them with a stable foundation from which to explore and express their feelings. This strengthens their emotional resilience and equips them with the skills they need to navigate life's ups and downs.

In conclusion, nurturing healthy emotional bonds with our children involves understanding the complex interplay of emotions, attachment, and parenting. By acknowledging and validating our children's feelings, including anger, and providing them with a safe space to express themselves, we empower them to develop into confident, emotionally resilient individuals. And remember, it's OK to seek support and guidance along the way. We're all on this journey together, learning and growing as we go.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Counselling Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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Rochford SS4 & Southend-On-Sea SS2
Written by Gosia Grabowska, MNCPS (Acc.) Parenting, Family Issues, LGBTQ+, Couples
Rochford SS4 & Southend-On-Sea SS2

Gosia is a bilingual therapist originally from Poland. She loves to travel by train and is curious about people's stories and experiences. She is passionate about navigating relationships, supporting parents, and addressing LGBTQ+ and cultural diversity issues. Her sessions are available both online and in person.

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