The existence of emotions is universal with humans. Every waking moment is about experiencing and expressing several of them. Isn’t it amazing, that nobody teaches us how to harbor joy, anger, sadness, surprise or pride? They flow naturally through us from the day we’re born and flow into a mixed palate of complicated patterns as we grow.
One of the reasons we’re called “grown-ups,” is because we’re aware of what we’re feeling and we use this awareness to mold our reactions accordingly. Er, sometimes at least ;-) There are times when we’re highly capable of acting like little kids ourselves, when we allow one emotion to override the other.
Children’s minds are dynamic little volcanoes of feelings. They feel sad at one moment, delirious the other; get mad at something trivial at one instance, then act extremely mature at another. But what makes a child emotionally intelligent is him being aware of the sentiments he feels, resolving them and moving on. All children need is a little help from their caregivers, and soon in time, they learn the art of emotion management themselves.
Expressions in Indian art, especially through dance, are expressed through nine forms of ‘rasas’ or emotions. Here’s how we could teach our kids about balancing these nine emotions through nine days of Navratri.
Introducing your child to the Navarasas:
1. Hasya (Joy): It’s wonderful to see a child smile or laugh. As parents, this is the state we want our kids to always be in. But it’s important to teach them that it’s also nice to be happy for others or that harboring happiness at another’s pain is not OK.
2. Sringara (Love or Beauty): We don’t need to be told how children make better observers than adults. What they notice is far more detailed and deep, and if such keen eyes are taught to look for beauty in everything around, aren’t we going to raise little optimists?
3. Adbhuta (Wonderment): We could take a lesson from the kids on this one, I think. The world is wonderland for children. They stop, look and admire while we just want them to hurry up. So next time a child stares at an ant with awestruck eyes, join him.
4. Raudra (Anger): Anger and frustration in children is usually an outcome of not knowing how to express. We participate in a child’s joy, but ask them to calm down when they’re having a meltdown. It can help if we empathize with their anger, get their attention and then guide them with an alternate solution.
5. Shanta (Calm): Sometimes our children surprise us by displaying remarkable peace in certain situations when we least expect it. At such times, all they need is acknowledgement. Saying, “You behaved very calmly when the others were fighting. I’m very proud of you,” is enough for them to understand that thinking calmly goes a longer way than showing anger.
6. Bhayanaka (Fear): Fear often stems out of mistrust. A child may display fear when visiting new people, or before jumping into a pool. As parents, we can reassure them that their fear is natural. Earlier, I would force my son to try the high slides in the park despite him expressing reluctance. It was only when I told him that I would wait for him at the end did he allow courage to take over his fear. Now for him, the longer the slide, the better.
7. Veera (Valour or Pride): A child who learns to draw for the first time may experience pride and look for encouragement from his caregiver. The encouragement is confidence-boosting, so being generous works. At the same time, the child must be taught that showing courage for wrong things, such as while disobeying is not desirable.
8. Karuna (Sadness or Compassion): A sad child may feel powerless and hence cry. “Stop crying, smile, smile!” is our primary reaction to such a situation. But I remember my wise friend telling me that children just need someone to understand their sadness and tell them it’s OK, and ask them to talk about it. Joy follows soon.
9. Vibhatsa (Disgust): “Eww, won’t eat that. Eee, that’s dirty!” Disgust comes more naturally to kids than we think. While to some extent it helps in making wise choices, it can also be used wrongly to assess dominance, something kids are experts at. Teaching a child his limits with discipline techniques allows mutual respect to flourish.
All types of rasas, both negative and positive are inter-related. It’s up to us parents to respect them in our kids by allowing expression. It’s only when they’re heard, can they be managed.
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