This post is also available in: French
One of the most important things as parents is to teach your kids to express feelings. Helping them understand and cope with their feelings in healthy ways will go far in their development as adults. But it can be a very challenging job to help navigate emotions for kids.
Why it’s important to help children express feelings
Well, even most adults don’t always fully understand or know how to cope with their feelings. It might feel like sometimes you’re barely getting by emotionally or feel totally drained.
Now imagine if you were a young boy or girl who was also undergoing mental development, as well as social pressures and physical changes. Yes, difficulties with understanding how to communicate feelings are a reality for many kids.
If they do not get support in a healthy, helpful way as they grow up, then they might continue to struggle with this issue in their adult lives. That’s going to stunt rather than encourage a growth mindset.
But I bet that you want more for your kids. In every way possible, you want your children to have advantages you didn’t. And that’s why we should make a point to talk about feelings.
Here are some tips for helping your kids communicate feelings.
Understand that we all feel the same things
Kids don’t have a special set of emotions reserved only for them. They experience the same things we do. It’s just amplified.
Have you ever seen one of those videos where a colorblind person sees the full spectrum for the first time? Or what about when a deaf toddler gets cochlear implants and can hear her mother’s voice for the first time?
These types of videos pull on the heartstrings, but they also serve as a reminder that things can be intense when they’re new.
And when your child is young, emotions are new. And they’re big and scary too.
That’s likely why it seems like your child is overreacting or over-dramatizing something. In reality, they’re experiencing the same flood of feelings you might get in that situation, but it’s all-new for a child. All they know is to give in to the same taste.
It’s your job as parents to teach them to work through those emotions for kids.
And that brings me to the next tip for helping them cope with these big emotions.
Pay careful attention to how well they express feelings
Before you support emotions for kids, you have to be able to identify the subtle cues that your child is starting to struggle with.
Pay close attention to things like body language and tone of voice. It takes some practice, but you can probably see a tantrum coming before it actually starts after those toddler years.
Help identify emotions for children
Ask your child what he or she is feeling to help them try to identify what’s going on internally. You can provide suggestions by saying things like, “do you feel angry?” This is helpful in cases where you have a reasonably good idea of what your child is feeling. For example, if their sibling just took their toy and now they’re acting out.
If you don’t know what your child may be feeling though, and you don’t think they can identify it themselves, talk instead about the trigger that led to the current moment. Once you understand what happened, you can start helping your child understand what the feelings are and what they mean.
Provide plenty of examples of emotions for kids
If you’re watching television and see a character act out in anger, talk about it. Talk about the feeling and provide other ways the TV character could have handled it.
Alternatively, if you see someone crying, talk about how they are feeling sad. This is an excellent time to ask your child whether they can think of a time when they felt the same way. And again, talk about things you can do when you’re feeling sad.
Because your child isn’t feeling big emotions when you bring up these examples, they can better process what you’re saying and understand how it could be helpful. Then, when your child has big feelings, your cues are just a reminder instead of something entirely new for them to process.
Live by example
If you get frustrated with something and throw it across the room, what do you think your child will do when he or she is angry?
Actually, what you do is much more important than anything you can say.
It’s still important to talk about feelings, but know that your words will be more powerful when you live by them.
Provide an example that your child can follow. When you mess up (as we all do), talk about it. Admit where you went wrong and discuss how you should have handled things instead.
You never have to be perfect (thankfully). But, you ideally will try to provide the best possible example. Remember that your kids are always watching and what is seen can impact emotions for kids.
Know when to ask for help
If your child has experienced any sort of trauma, they will need more guidance to understand those large emotions. In this case, explore various types of treatment to help your child get through the trauma and understand the impact it has had.
It’s always better to face things head-on while your child is young. This way, he or she can avoid years of struggling to understand and express feelings that are complex.
Final words on emotions for kids
As your children understand their feelings better and can talk about them, everything will get easier. They’re likely to come to you with any problems because they know that it’s a safe space to talk about anything.
What are some other ways to encourage kids to open up more?