Just like adults, children also experience the full spectrum of feelings and emotions, such as fear, anger, jealousy, excitement, frustration, among many others. However, sometimes children can’t express their feelings like adults as they have yet to develop a vocabulary.
That’s why children often find other ways to communicate their feelings. This can include facial expressions, behavior changes, body language, and play. In fact, children can sometimes also find problematic and inappropriate ways to express their feelings.
That’s why it is up to parents and caretakers to learn how they can help their child express their feelings in a constructive and positive manner.
So today, we will look at 5 ways you can help your children to express their feelings!
5 Ways to Help Children Express Their Feelings
You can play an important role in helping your child identify and properly express their feelings. Let’s look at some ways through which you can help your kids to express their feelings constructively:
1. Give a Name to Feelings
Adults have years of experience that helps them know what they are feeling. In the case of children, they have to develop emotional intelligence over time.
That’s why it is common for children not to know what they are feeling. After all, their different emotions will be foreign to them and without a name.
The first step towards helping your child express their feelings is to help them or identify what they are feeling in the first place.
You were angry because your brother took your favorite toy. Am I right?
You are sad because the father has to go to work?”
Your brother is feeling mad after bumping his head on the wall.
I can see that you are excited right now!
It appears you can’t put your toy back on the shelf, and you are frustrated.
You can use “I feel ____ (emotion) because of ____” to help children learn how to identify their feelings and emotions.
You can also use videos and picture books to help them understand the emotions of the characters. While watching a movie or reading a book, pause for a few minutes and discuss with your child what emotions they think the characters are displaying.
Over time, they will start to develop a vocabulary of different emotions and will be able to identify how they feel. As a result, it would allow them to express how they are feeling.
2. Be a Role Model
Another good way to help your child learn how to express their feelings properly is to be a good role model. Children watch what you do and how you handle different situations. Showing examples of how you handle different emotions will help your child learn how to express their feelings safely and properly.
So, the next time the kitchen sink gets clogged up or the neighbor’s dog gets in your lawn, take a deep breath, and find a way to solve the problem calmly rather than get angry, as your child might mimic your emotional behavior.
You would be surprised to know that children like to copy what they see around them. So when they see you handle your emotions calmly and positively, they will also start to do the same.
Remember when you are role modeling the proper way to express your feelings, do not forget to identify your emotions and discuss how you will handle the situation.
“I am so angry right now. My phone is broken. It’s okay, I’m going to take 3 deep breaths and look for a new phone when I am calm.”
“It’s my birthday! I’m so excited, but I need to calm down because my mom is sleeping. I think I going to go for a walk around the neighborhood until I am calmer.”
3. Be Calm and Empathetic
Children are unable to understand why they feel certain emotions or what caused them in the first place. This leads to a full-fledged storm inside them and they eventually lash out.
For example, let’s say that big brother takes toys from a child. The child responds by hitting the big brother and starts to scream.
For an adult, the cause, as well as the reaction to that situation, will be very clear. But the child will feel a range of emotions, such as anger, sadness, hurt, and so on. In addition, not knowing what and why they feel like that can make it even more confusing for them.
In these situations, it is important for adults to handle the situation with calmness and empathy. It is best to use an empathetic tone when you are talking to the child about the situation. You shouldn’t be harsh or use a taunting tone, as it would only make the child suppress their emotions.
Besides using an empathetic tone, you can also use other techniques such as making eye-to-eye contact by sitting down to reach their level or using a gentle touch to comfort them.
Asking your child, “What happened?” and allowing them to share what laid up to them lashing out will help your child feel your empathy and be able to calm down because they feel like you are listening to them.
4. Do not punish them
When the child yells or lashes out because of overwhelming emotions, you need to resist the urge to resort to disciplinary methods.
Punishing the child by shaming them, spanking them, or giving consequences doesn’t help the child deal with emotions. In fact, it makes the child associate the punishment with their emotions.
This can make the child start to bottle their emotions or not show them in front of you. Over time, this creates a vicious cycle of suppressing emotions and leads to a meltdown episode.
Instead, you should help the child manage and process their emotions positively. This involves using a calm and soft tone instead of yelling. Similarly, you can also teach them how to express their emotions in positive ways, such as shaping the playdough, drawing, deep breathing, and so on.
5. Develop a Positive Environment
A positive environment allows the child to express and acknowledge their emotions safely. And the best way to develop such a positive environment is to be open and honest you’re your child and allow them to see you identify and express your emotions properly. This will signal to the child that expressing emotions rather than bottling them up is okay.
You can use cause and reaction statements to express how you feel in different real-life situations:
I feel stressed because I will be late for work.
I feel frustrated because your toys are all over the floor.
I feel excited because we are going on vacation tomorrow.
I’m going out of town for work, I feel sad leaving you behind.
And so on…
This will allow the child to also express their emotions, and when they do, you need to respond with ways to help them cope with it. When your child is sad or angry, you can offer them a hug and say it would make them feel good.
Also, remember to use expressive statements from time to time to remind them that it is okay to express emotions.
For example, you can use these statements:
It is okay to feel angry sometimes.
I am here for you, whenever you need me.
You seem to be sad. Do you want to talk about it?
I understand your frustration. What can I do to help?
Validating your child’s emotions will encourage them to be expressive and eventually form a deep connection with you.
Help Your Child to Express Their Feelings & Emotions
By creating a safe environment, naming the emotions, and using other tips mentioned on this page, you can help your child to understand their emotions better.
This will help your child be more emotionally stable and better express their feelings. Even when they grow up, a high emotional intelligence will greatly help them!
At Sparkles Early Learning Academy, we help children achieve age-appropriate milestones through play-based learning. This also involves helping the children to understand and express their feelings & emotions safely!