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Time for Some Emotional Spring Cleaning?

Marybeth Bock, MPH

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Now is the perfect time to do a little emotional spring cleaning.

As the parent of two young adults, I find myself biting my tongue a lot, holding back from verbalizing my thought bubbles. And I know I’m not the only one who engages in this, as many of my friends share that they often do the same thing.

Nobody wants to be the “too up in your business” kind of parent. We all struggle with wanting to speak up when we think we can be helpful, yet we also want our kids to know we believe they are competent adults who can figure things out.

When this clog of emotion builds up, I find myself getting a little snippy and in need of a re-set, and now is the perfect time to do a little emotional spring cleaning. We’re out here dusting away cobwebs and opening our windows to fresh air and sunshine — why not gift ourselves with a clearing out of unnecessary emotions?

This can be as simple as grabbing a notebook and making a brief list of your current emotional baggage. Are you carrying a tiny, sleek clutch or a ginormous backpack?

What are you currently frustrated about? Are you feeling hurt about something? Could your relationship with your adult child use any adjustments? How about with your spouse? Are you going to bed in a bad mood or waking up feeling deflated?

If you’re the kind of person who constantly puts the needs of others before your own, take some time to think about how that behavior is serving you, and how you might go about changing that.

Stepping back can be hard. Moving away from patterns that we’ve been in for decades is challenging and can bring about feelings of loss and sadness. Allowing our kids to self-direct, and sometimes pay profound consequences for their decisions, can feel like we’re giving up or not loving them in the “right” way.

If any of those feelings are simmering below the surface of your consciousness, join me in an emotional release this spring. Here’s a list of things to try:

  • Write a letter to anyone (including yourself), releasing all the feelings you have for them — good and bad. Tear it up or burn it when you’re done, or use it to guide an actual conversation with them.
  • Spend the good part of a day alone. Go for a long drive, a long hike, or a lengthy sit in a park or another peaceful spot. Don’t busy yourself with your normal to-do’s, but just be quiet and ponder your emotions. I guarantee you’ll generate some solutions to make life feel easier.
  • Go out (or stay in) with a group of friends for a meal. It’s the perfect solution to remind you that we’re all feeling similar things and dealing with similar frustrations.

Most importantly, remember that every emotion is valid, but we don’t need to hang on to all of them.

Start sweeping.

Originally shared on CollegiateParent's Facebook page. Find more conversation and community in our College Parent Insiders Facebook group. Photo courtesy of the author.
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Marybeth Bock, MPH, is Mom to two young adult students and one delightful hound dog. She has logged time as a military spouse, childbirth educator, college instructor and freelance writer. Marybeth has a bachelor's degree in psychology from UCLA and a master's in public health from San Jose State University. She lives in Arizona and thoroughly enjoys research and writing. You can find her work on multiple parenting sites and in two books.
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