Skylar was frustrated the other morning. She wanted a waffle,
and she wanted her seat cleaned, and she wanted me to push in her
She woke up frustrated and there didn't seem to be an obvious
reason. And the more she whined the more frustrated I began to
I mentioned that her tone wasn't very kind, that she needed to
be patient, and that I was doing the best I could to make breakfast
And then she said, "It just needs to come out, it won't come
So I said, "What needs to come out?" And she said, "My
And then everything changed. I told her it was OK to let them
out and she turned to her dad who was sitting right next to her.
She sat on his lap, cried and cried, and he hugged her.
We didn't talk, we didn't ask her why, and we didn't demand to
know what was wrong. We just allowed her to cry and I continued to
make breakfast for her sisters.
I have no idea what Sky was releasing. Maybe it was a bad dream
or an issue from yesterday or last week, but whatever it was, she
knew it was time to let it go. And just as important, she needed
the space and support to do so.
All of my girls practice this - not all the time, but when
things really build up, they can feel it, and they know what it
We refer to it as emotional throw up. Not so different from
throwing up food, it is the body's way of releasing what it doesn't
It really doesn't matter what it's from and it's probably not
one thing - most likely it's a number of issues, disappointments or
frustrations that built up over time, and the body knows when it's
ready to rid itself of the discomfort.
And all children need a safe space to release, a place where
they can cry at the top of their lungs and not be told to calm
down, a place where they can shed tears and not be told to hurry
up, a place where they can let go and still be validated and
And that space is sacred.
Recognizing what your child is experiencing and allowing them to
release emotions is what builds a sense of trust, a sense of safety
and a deepening of your relationship.
Children throw up emotions because they are wise and they listen
to their bodies, but adults tend to think sadness and anger are
unacceptable and weak, so they stuff it down and pretend it doesn't
And then it turns into road rage, fights with co workers, angry
Facebook posts, or even worse, it gets taken out on significant
others or children.
When I talk about emotional throw up in my classes or
presentations, one or more parents will usually say, "That would
never happen in my house…my child would never do what your kids
do…they would never know that they 'need' to release."
OK - then teach them.
Let them know about emotions, how they build up and how they
need to be released. Make this a normal discussion in your
household. Make it OK to emotionally throw up every once in
This does not give permission to hit or harm others, but create
some normalcy around crying, or talking, or any other safe way to
let go of feelings.
Children know when they need to release, the key is allowing for
it, staying present for it, and offering love and comfort (or maybe
they prefer space) when they are letting it go.
Let them know that you feel sad and mad sometimes and
demonstrate how you safely deal with these feelings.
This is a key to emotional health. This is a key to your
family's emotional well being. This is a key to having your
children accept all parts of themselves, even the parts that aren't
so pretty and we all try to pretend we don't have.
Like Skylar, who I know would prefer to be happy or at least
calm in the morning. But on this morning she needed to throw up,
she needed to let go of discomfort and she needed a safe place to
So she sat on her dad's lap for a full 10 minutes and wailed and
screamed while hugging her dad tight.
And when she was done, she rested, and then slowly came back to
I looked at her and said, "Didn't that feel good? I'm so glad
you got that out."
She nodded, smiled and said, "Mama, can I please have a waffle
Click here to hear Cathy and Todd talk more about emotional
throw up on Zen
Cathy Adams is a certified parenting coach, yoga instructor and mother to three girls.
See more of Cathy's stories here.
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