As a parent, understanding feelings is an extremely important part of being in your child’s life both mentally and emotionally. Your child’s ability to understand their feelings, communicate their emotions, regulate those emotions, and handle conflicts will be the most important skills he or she will learn on the way to physical, emotional and mental maturity. It is through understanding their feelings that children will develop into emotionally competent adults.
No matter what age your child is at, you have the power to help them learn to understand and accept their feelings. By using these tips, you can equip your child with the skills and emotional intelligence to navigate the sometimes-turbulent emotions of growing up.
Model Healthy Emotional Expression
As a parent, it is your responsibility to model healthy emotional expression. The way that you express your emotions in front of your child can have a huge impact on the way they manage their emotions in the long term.
Your children are watching your every move, and learning how to both identify and express their feelings by watching you. So if they see you exploding in anger or being dismissive of your own feelings, they will learn to respond to their own emotions in a negative manner.
On the other hand, if you model a healthy way of expressing and acknowledging your emotions, your children will learn to do the same. This could mean expressing your negative emotions in an age-appropriate way or simply asking your child to tell you how they are feeling.
Talk About Feelings
Communication is the key to understanding feelings. Just talking about emotions can help your child identify and better express their feelings. It’s not enough to just tell your child to “calm down” or “get over it”. This can send the wrong message and make them feel as though their emotions are not valid.
Instead, take the time to sit down with them and talk it out. Ask them questions about why they are feeling the way they are. Help them put words to their emotions. Show empathy and work together to come up with ways to manage or cope with those emotions. This will help increase your child’s emotional vocabulary and help them to identify and better understand their feelings when they arise.
Teach Emotional Regulation
It is important to teach your child how to regulate their emotions. Understanding feelings is a big part of this. Your child has to be able to identify their feelings first in order to be able to know how to deal with them.
You can help your child learn to regulate their emotions by teaching them techniques such as deep breathing, mindfulness, and positive self-talk. Also, try to create positive distractions to help them reset. This could include going for a walk, listening to music, or playing a game. These types of activities can be used to help your child channel their emotions in a positive way.
Validate Your Child’s Feelings
Validation is another key part of understanding feelings. As a parent, you have to provide your child with the emotional safety to express their emotions. Allowing your child to feel and express their emotions, no matter how “inappropriate” it may seem, is essential to their emotional health.
You can validate your child’s feelings by simply acknowledging that their emotions are valid. Let them know that it is OK to feel angry, sad, or scared, and that they do not have to be ashamed or embarrassed. As long as they are expressing their emotions in a healthy manner, and are not hurting themselves or others, it is important to let your child know that their feelings and experiences are valid.
Encourage Emotional Outlets
Encourage your children to find creative and healthy ways of expressing their feelings. For example, they could keep a diary, write a story, draw, or take part in a creative group activity such as theatre or a sports team. By doing this, your child gains confidence, develops self-awareness and encourages empathy and understanding of other’s feelings.
Crafts or art projects can also be a great way to project emotion in a safe and healthy way. You can build on this by having your child explain the emotion behind the project. By doing this, your child can start to understand and articulate their feelings.
Playing games, especially board games such as Scrabble or Monopoly, is an effective way to get your children to practice and understand their emotions. Board games are a great way to teach children how to process emotions in a constructive way and learn to manage their reactions. Board games allow children to practice expressing their emotions, understand the underlying causes of their emotions, and learn the impacts their emotions have on themselves and others.
Understanding and expressing emotions is an essential part of physical, emotional and mental maturity. As a parent, it is up to you to provide your child with a safe environment to express their emotions. With these tips, you can equip your child with the skills and emotional intelligence to navigate the tumultuous emotions of growing up.
By modeling healthy emotional expression, talking about feelings, teaching emotional regulation, validating their feelings, and encouraging emotional outlets, you can help your child better understand their feelings and become the emotionally competent adult that you want them to be.