Why help your child identify their feelings?
Emotions and feelings make up our own personal, or inner, communication system. They help guide thoughts which then help decide behavior. When emotions are ignored, or not allowed to happen, this system works very hard to be heard. Think tantrums! Helping your child express emotions guides him towards responding to situations, rather than reacting. It creates space between a feeling, thoughts and the behavior. Tantrum prevention!
1. Calming Sense
First, help your child to calm down. Try using a learned mindfulness strategy together. (Mindful Breathing or the Exercise Below) Offer a walk together or a more comfortable place to talk. A change of scenery can help distract overwhelming emotions. Sometimes, all that’s needed is just sitting in supportive silence, modeling a calm presence and mindful breaths.
2. See It Through
Talk less, listen more. Allow your child to safely experience the emotion and all the associated physical manifestations. As parents, we are often quick to stop, help or fix. As an alternative, try offering support though the discomfort and hold off in finding a solution. A great go to: “I can see this is hard for you. I’m here for you if you need me.”
As you see your child beginning to settle, offer empathy. As you show empathy, or identify and acknowledge your child’s feelings, you gift them self-compassion and a vocabulary to express their feelings in the future. Your words become their inner voice. A great go to: “I can see that you are (fill in their emotion)” Followed by “I can understand why you feel that way.”
All feelings are ok. Feelings come and feelings go. Validate their experience by sharing short stories of your similar experiences and feelings. Showing this vulnerability will help normalize emotion and foster connection. Children are often settled and less confrontational with a sense of connection. They are also more likely to continue sharing when they feel heard and validated.
5. Continued Support
Create teachable moments as you offer praise when your child demonstrates learned emotional regulation skills. “I noticed you were taking some deep breaths to help calm down. I am so proud of you.” “Thank you for letting me know how you are feeling.” Let your child know you will always support them and together you can find solutions to any difficult situations.
6. Role Model
Talk openly and plainly about your feelings as you experience them. Share mistakes you make and what you learn from them. Your willingness to be vulnerable increases how willing your child is to share. Your voice becomes their voice.
Thank you for reading today! Check back soon –we will continue to share resources to inspire anxiety health awareness and youth wellness. For more tips and strategies see our Facebook page. Sending well wishes to you all!