As adults, we understand that talking about our feelings is a great way to understand them better. When we speak about how we’re feeling with our friends and family, we can get to the root of what’s causing them, what we can do to move past them, and how we can work towards not having to face them again.
Children, however, need a little more help when it comes to identifying and expressing their emotions in a healthy way. This, so that they can learn how to manage them as they come up in an appropriate way.
While adults have the necessary vocabulary to talk about how they feel, most children don’t. This means that they’ll express themselves in any way they see fit: through frowns, tears, screaming, and temper tantrums.
This isn’t constructive – and it can be extremely harmful further down the line if a child still doesn’t understand that expressing their feelings can be done appropriately, without the need to recur to problematic behaviors.
As a parent or guardian, here are 4 ways you can reach out to your child in order to encourage them to talk about their feelings and emotions safely, calmly, and constructively.
- Name the feeling
One of the first things you can do when teaching your child about their emotions is to understand that each one has a name and a meaning behind it. There’s “joy”, “anger”, “confusion”, “fear”…the list goes on!
By sitting down with your child, identifying what they’re feeling, and giving that emotion a name, you’ll be helping them to develop a useful vocabulary toolkit for the next time the feeling comes up. If your child doesn’t feel comfortable yet using these words, you can begin to associate them with colors: red, blue, yellow, green.
- Teach through praise
Celebrate your child’s decision to talk about their feelings! Whether they need an extra push or are happy to do it on their own, make sure that you’re praising your child for choosing to talk about how they feel instead of simply expressing them physically with no restraint.
Not only will this help your child understand that talking about their feelings is a good thing, but it will also reinforce the behavior…which will make them more likely to repeat it over and over again.
- Look for feelings in others
If you’re looking for an extra hand, a great way to help your child understand their emotions is by showing them how these emotions show up in others. Picture books and other forms of media are a great way to help your child learn how certain emotions show up in the real world through facial expressions and body language.
Ask your child to identify how they think a certain character is feeling while watching a movie, and then talk through the range of emotions in order to get a better understanding of how they differ from one another.
- Be a role model
Kids are more likely to learn about how to express themselves appropriately when they see others – especially people they look up to – do the same. Show your child that you’re comfortable talking about your feelings, both the good and the bad, and let them know that it’s OK if they want to do the same whenever they need to.
By showing them that you, too, deal with feelings that they might encounter, they’ll start to understand that emotions are normal and it’s great to talk about them before they affect them deeply.
How else have you helped your child talk about their feelings? Drop your tips in the comments and let’s discuss how these have worked for you in the past! 🤩