How we respond to our babies, toddlers, and children's feelings is vital to their longterm emotional health. It lays pathways in their brain for how to handle what they are feeling as they grow up.
Sometimes it can help to think back to our own experience of being parented through big and uncomfortable feelings. If we were ignored, shamed (‘Don’t be silly!), minimized ('You'll be fine, there's nothing to be worried about'), rejected ('Stop that! Sit over there and sort yourself out), it can actually lay pathways that make us fear our feelings. It gives the message ‘Your feelings are not OK’.
Difficult feelings are a normal part of life and we need to teach our children that it's perfectly OK to feel them (even if they need guidance around how to express them appropriately). They need to know they are not 'bad' for having feelings, and that uncomfortable feelings do not have to overwhelm us.
Connecting with someone else in their emotion is more powerful than many realise. "I can see this is hard for you." "It's OK to be nervous about some things, I understand." "It's OK to be cross, but I can't let you hit your brother". We need to help our infants know it's actually OK to feel, so they can develop the neural pathways to handle them well.
Too many adults are uncomfortable with their own feelings so naturally their children’s big emotions make them uncomfortable too. This is a hard cycle to break, but not an impossible one. Knowledge and insight is all it takes to start making the change. The take home message is that NO ONE needs to cope with difficult emotions alone, shutting down to manage, turning to unhelpful habits to get through or feeling bad about themselves for even having them in the first place.