As parents, one of our greatest motivations is to protect our children from pain and suffering—in essence, from negative emotions. Nonetheless, despite our best efforts, our children will be disappointed, feel fear and pain, and have tremendous loss and grief. But this isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

Experiencing emotions is at the heart of what it means to be alive, and emotions can provide us with information about ourselves and our environment. While we cannot strive to protect our children from difficult emotions, there are strategies we can use so that these emotions provide opportunities to learn and to feel connected to others.

The extent to which our children’s experiences of negative emotions could be potentially beneficial depends on their ability to self-regulate. In young children, parents play a vital role in this equation. Children’s prefrontal cortex, an area of the brain that controls emotions and functions like the CEO, is highly immature. Imagine what would happen if a child were the CEO of a Fortune 500 company (think Richie Rich). Disaster! As the parent, you have the privilege of getting to be that CEO until your child is ready to take over