Feeling "All the Feels"

“Cute puppy dogs, a bad break-up, some really good pizza: These things give us all the feels.  The slang term describes an overwhelming emotional reaction, often with a humorous tone such as the phrase: “all the feels”. 

This is the dictionary.com definition of “all the feels” the urban slang way to describe the range of overwhelming emotional reactions we get from joy to sadness and everything in between.  

It’s certainly more fun to “feel all the feels” when it’s an event that inspires joy and happiness like getting an A on an exam or winning a sporting event, but what about when the situation causes fear, sadness, anger or anxiety?  And what about when it’s something that causes all of the above?  Cue the month of March, when a majority of colleges release their final admission decisions. 

It’s hard enough supporting your teen through this experience, but how in the world do you support them while you’re also experiencing your OWN “feels”, ones that you may not have even known were there?

How do you prepare for this potential tsunami of emotions?

Actually, the best way to prepare is just by realizing that you will have feelings about this.  It’s hard not to.  You’ve been part of helping them plan and prepare and execute and stress over this for months and years and watching them receive a response that wasn’t what they expected is super difficult.  

So, the first step is taking the time to experience and figure out your own feelings:  about their reactions AND about your own reactions to the news. 

Did you have colleges that you wanted your teen to get into and didn’t?   Maybe after the initial sadness they are able to accept it more easily and you find you’re still mourning them not going to your alma mater. That’s totally understandable.  We all have preferences and want to share those with people we love.  

Are they accepted to a college that you feel is too far away or one that you’re worried that they are not academically ready to attend but they are SUPER excited about it?  You can still support them in their joy and accomplishment AND also feel a bit worried.  (It’ll be okay!)

Are you angry because your teen worked twice as hard as their friend, who got into their first-choice college?  Of course, you are!  It’s hard not to be.  Acknowledging your reaction can help you more powerfully support your teen by validating their feelings about it and sharing how hard you know they worked and that they will benefit from their tremendous work ethic no matter where they go.  And that the college they choose is lucky to have them! 

Balancing your own feelings with supporting the feelings of your teen is hard.  Believe me, I know.  I get it.  I really do. As you’re struggling to do this with your teen, I’m doing the same with every single one of my students.  Each one is “my kid” and it takes every ounce of strength to remember to give them space for their reaction, and to support and not “fix”. 

I have to remind myself constantly that each one will react differently to each situation, that “feels” can overlap.   Rarely do we experience just one emotional response to a big event, it’s often a mixture. I experience my own reactions so that I can be there for theirs and know which is which. All the while, reminding myself that there are no “bad” feels.

 “Support their reaction” is the phrase I say silently to myself, knowing that by doing so, I’m helping them recognize what their reaction looks and feels like. So that they know it’s going to be okay and that they can handle this when it happens again (and it will) and that even if it doesn’t work out perfectly at that moment, they know that they have the tools to make it perfect for them.  That they’ll be ready as they head off to college. 

And you’ll be ready as well - for “all the feels” that accompany that moment and many more to come!