The Emotional Cup


emotional cup

Earlier this week I posted the following quote on my social media pages:

“Either we spend time meeting children’s emotional needs by filling their love cup or we will spend time dealing with behaviors cause by their unmet needs. Either way, we spend the time.” -Pam Leo

I love a good metaphor, and this one really does it for me!

Visualize your child holding a cup. Now think whether your child’s emotional cup is being filled with goodness or if their cup is getting dipped into or even emptied out.

If your child’s emotional cup is being filled with positivity and goodness by those around them, they are receiving love, affection, security, validation, and attention. If your child’s emotional cup is being dipped into or emptied by other’s, they are experiencing stress, peer rejection, failure, punishment, anger, hunger, or fatigue. While I hope that your child’s cup (and your cup) is more often full then spilling out or empty, we all experience a less than full cup, but what we do about that is the next important piece. 

Children (and adults, alike) might feel scared, worried, anxious or angry, when their cup begins to empty. This is when we see outside behavior communicating what we are feeling on the inside (see blog post from June 16, 2021 for more on this topic).  You might notice your child (or you) misbehaving, fighting for a refill, or trying to steal from other’s cups to refill their own.

Some of our children are more aware and skilled in how to successfully refill their cup in times when they are slowly spilling or emptied out. They are able to seek out and find ways to refill their emotional cup in times of need. Other children have a much more difficult time refilling their emotional cup. They dip into other’s cups by putting them down, fighting, or trying to make others feel unhappy along with them.   

What can we do to fill our child’s emotional cup? 

  • Positive relationships with peers and family members
  • Connecting with your child – talk together and listen
  • Validate the feelings your child expresses
  • Spend one-on-one time together
  • Child’s preferred activities
  • Succeeding/meeting goals 

How can we help our child learn to advocate for a refill when they need it?

It’s important for us to teach our children how to appropriately refill their emotional cup; how to advocate for their needs. We must teach our children to ask for what they need and find comfort in expressing how they are feeling. We want them to learn how to appropriately let someone know how they can support them in topping off their cup. Let your children express their feelings, listen and validate where they are at. You will learn a whole lot about the status of their emotional cup if you tune in, listen, and notice their behaviors - it is incredibly telling.

Parents, caretakers, educators…all of you who are reading this, please, please be sure to take care of yourself, do what you need to fill and refill your cup. It takes a healthy individual to support the health and well-being of the littles in our lives. Be sure to take care of YOU, fill your cup so that you can fill other’s cups.

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