How To Talk With Kids About Feelings
How do I help my kids to express their feelings? Here are some tips from Storyberries on how to teach kids to recognise, manage and express their feelings.
One key thing we can do is to talk about emotions. As adults we can often find it hard to manage our own emotions, and this, too, can make it even harder to model or guide those of our children. It may not feel easy, but with help we can all get better at it, so in this article we provide some simple ideas for speaking about everyday feelings.
Emotions are specific states of feeling: for example, joy, anger, fear, or frustration. Emotions are created when elements external to us interact with what’s inside us. Emotions accompany us with every step we take, and identifying what we feel allows us to know ourselves better. When we know what we are feeling, our way of acting makes more sense and we can better modulate our expressions of emotion.
Children need to understand their emotions in order to be able to express how they feel. Emotional intelligence is a really vital component of healthy development. Having a balanced mind helps with empathy and assertiveness, both essential to all areas of life.
Being a positive role modelChildren need to see how it’s done, with you as an example. It is important that you express your feelings in words as well as actions, so that your children learn to do the same. For example, if you are excited about your job, tell your children how happy you are and how excited you feel. Or, you can use words in a calm way to express your feelings if you are upset or disappointed about something. This will help your children to understand that feelings are normal for everyone, and that expressing them is a good way to feel better.
Recognising feelingsHelp your children put words to their feelings in order to recognise them. For example, if your son is angry because you have told him to turn the television off and go to sleep, you can say: ‘I understand you are angry at the moment because you were enjoying the show and you wanted to keep watching it.’ The more we provide the correct term for the emotions they are feeling, the more they will be able to express their emotions verbally, instead of acting them out (for example as tantrums).
Setting aside time to talkCreate moments for dialogue. Use open-ended questions that lead to chatting. For example you might say ‘What have you done at school today?’ or ‘Which was the best bit of your day?’
Listening and respectingListen to your children with respect. Often children do not want advice, just to feel listened to and understood. You might say, ‘How hard it must have been for you to bear these insults without knowing how to respond!’ instead of “You shouldn’t have answered back!”. Your child may already have strong feelings about it, and sometimes may simply seek understanding.
Children love games and movies!Open conversations by taking advantage of resources such as games and movies. When watching movies, point out the feelings of the characters. Imagine that you are watching Wreck it Ralph together. You can ask: ‘What happened to Ralph? Why is he angry?’ ‘Look! Vanellope is happy because she finally has a car.’ By the way, Inside Out is an excellent movie that explores the theme of emotions in a really sweet, positive way.
Giving kids space to express themselvesMake it clear that it is good to feel emotions. It is logical that children might feel angry some days. What is key, is how they manage that anger. Give them a space to let off steam and allow them to express their opinions, even if you disagree with them.
The Angry Little DinosaurFred is a little dinosaur who feels angry when he can’t find his shoes! His parents help him to feel much better.
The Shell Shocked TurtleOwen is a turtle who is frightened of everything – until with the help of his sister he learns to conquer his fears.
All AboardNina feels worried about moving to a new city. Playing a game with her parents helps her feel much better.
Article by Luzmery M. Romero Gamboa and Fleur Rodgers
Luzmery works in the area of clinical psychology as a psychotherapist for children, adolescents and families. Since 2016, she has run a Psychological Center in Venezuela called Psicoluz. She offers workshop facilitations to parents, is involved in recreational activities for children, and has been working as a freelancer since 2017 performing online psychotherapy.
Fleur is a meditation teacher in France and uses a compassion and loving-kindness based approach to meditation and slow-minded living. Fleur posts regularly to Instagram @rodgers.fleur She has two children, is a qualified teacher in adult education and is the founder of Timeouttobreathe.com