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  • Writer's pictureJulie Kurtz

What Happens to a Child Who is Not Allowed to have Feelings?

Updated: Mar 27, 2021

I heard a mother in my exercise class today say if you give your child an essential oil while they tantrum it will calm them down and help them be happy again. 

I wonder why we are a nation seeking a potion for happiness like that mother trying to make her child feel ‘happy’ again.  22% of our nation has anxiety or depression.  People are amazed that aggregate happiness has not risen in the USA when incomes and educational levels have risen.  A million moments for a child of “you should have done that, why did you do that, don’t feel that way” chisels away at their ability to tune in to their internal world and communicate how they feel in the moment.  When we are disconnected from our internal world of emotions we grow up to stuff our feelings down and seek out external potions of happiness to turn us on temporarily. It becomes a vicious cycle of never really ‘achieving’ happiness.

Instead, what would it be like if we said to that child throwing the tantrum, ‘wow you are really sad right now’, ‘it looks like you are angry you did not get that toy’, ‘those are big emotions you are having’.  Tuning a child inward to their emotions and teaching them how to label and communicate them in the moment is the key.  

Fast forward to adults…

A million moments of our caregivers in our childhood trying to make us happy when we feel sad or angry, not seeing us or ignoring our needs, overly criticizing everything we do or worse being abused or severely neglected will turn that adult later in life “OFF” to their ability to identify their emotions in the moment.  Now we have a bunch of adults falsely seeking happiness from external sources such as sex, food, drugs or alcohol etc!  

Somewhere right now in the moment is the key.  

“Within you there is a stillness and a sanctuary to which you can retreat at any time and be yourself.” ~Hermann Hesse.  

Life can be swirly chaos and emotional roller coaster riding all around us. It can feel overwhelming and our initial default reaction is to numb out, run away or fight.  The goal is to learn how to ride the waves by finding a place of safety and stillness within.  This is a life of constant change and motion…we can only experience one piece at a time.  

Happiness does not exist in the perfect tomorrow we imagine but rather a moment-to-moment choice of noticing how we feel and choosing how we respond to what is directly in front of us or inside of us right now.


For more information on trauma informed practices, sensory and emotional literacy visit the Center for Optimal Brain Integration® at Also, check out our resource page and free user guide and video on using the APP - TRIGGER STOP: SENSORY AND EMOTIONAL CHECK-IN for children ages 3-8 years old.

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