Children can sometimes have a hard time expressing their feelings. When something upsets them, they may resort to tantruming or other behavior outbursts. As parents, we want our children to feel confident and safe while expressing their feelings. We want them to know that it doesn’t have to be the end of the world, however there are resolutions available.
This can look like your child feeling upset over not being able to get a certain toy or game, not wanting to eat their vegetables, or feeling sad over a movie or TV show. They may get irritable over sharing their toys with their siblings, and resort to aggressive behavior to make people leave them alone.
It’s understandable that you know whatever they are upset over, may be unreasonable. You know that you cannot afford to buy that big, shiny new toy. However, they don’t have the concept of what it means to be financially feasible, so they will feel upset by that. You have the power to help them work through their emotions without blame or negativity.
Here are 4 tips to help your child express their emotions without tantruming. By guiding your child through the motions, they will pick up on being able to independently express their feelings to you. Children are very vulnerable, so it’s important that you are always showing understanding and care when they present a problem to you. Showing them dismissal and a lack of understanding can translate into future behavioral problems.
Let’s be honest: children are complicated. Sometimes, we as parents may feel like we don’t even know what we are doing. Consulting with a child psychologist is always a great way to understand and have that support system available for your family. Learn what a child psychologist does in child therapy, today. In this time, online therapy has become more popular and convenient for a lot of families, so make sure you also read on what an online child therapy looks like!
How to Help Your Child Express Their Feelings: Be a role model
Model the behavior you wish to see in your child. Children are very monkey-see-monkey-do based, where they may repeat certain actions or vocabularies that you do often. As their parents, you have the power to influence them in a positive way! You can boost your child’s confidence without them even really knowing it. When we display confidence in ourselves, we can help our anxious children feel more confident about themselves.
Be a role model in identifying feelings for your child. This can look like making a mistake, such as over pouring orange juice and it spilling on the floor. Do this in front of your child, and make sure you are emphasizing the emotion you are feeling. This can look like, “I spilled juice on the counter! I feel upset with myself. But I know that there is a solution: I can wipe it up and clean the counter.”
Practice modeling the template you’d like to see your child using. This could look like, “Oh no, I forgot my wallet at home. This makes me feel so bad about myself. But, I know that I don’t need to panic, I can just go get it or have my partner bring it for me.” Show them that you can calmly and effectively identify solutions.
Practice naming your feelings, or have your child try to guess what you are experiencing. This could look like making a sad, upset face. Nothing too dramatic, but something that your child can recognize and identify as a feeling. Maybe something like sadness, not smiling and keeping your head down. You can ask your child, what does it look like I’m feeling right now?
Make sure to continue labeling and identifying your feelings every chance you get, so that your child can catch on and eventually do that themselves. This is a great way to begin learning emotional regulation in times of struggling with tough feelings!
A child psychologist in Simi Valley, Ca, will help you as parents learn more positive and effective ways to communicate with your child.
How to Help Your Child Express Their Feelings: Practice identifying feelings
One great way to help your child express themselves is through practice. Practice makes perfect, right? Along the way, your child may make some mistakes in expressing themselves. This could look like having a temper tantrum or behavior outburst.
When you notice your child growing increasingly irritable or upset about something, pull them aside to take a break. For example, focus on that feeling, and let them know you see it. This can look like, “hey, I notice you are starting to stomp your feet, can you help me understand what you’re feeling?” They can then respond that they feel upset or angry over something.
Praise them for being able to identify that. This can look like, “wow, I’m proud of you for being able to understand that you’re feeling upset right now. That is really good work”. That way, your child will feel good about openly sharing their feelings and emotions with you. When your child is praised and feels satisfied with themselves for being open, they will continue to do so!
If your child is unsure about how they feel, you can help them identify it in a number of ways. You can have a sheet with you, full of different smiley faces or emojis that have a range of different emotions. Show your child the sheet, and ask them to point to the one they feel the most.
Even when your child is in a happy or positive mood, have them practice identifying their emotions. This can look like at birthday parties or out at the park, pull them aside and ask them, “Wow, today has been a lot of fun for me! How has today been making YOU feel?” and encourage them to pinpoint exactly why they feel that way.
Child therapy in Simi Valley, Ca, helps encourage your child to share their feelings openly in a positive way.
How to Help Your Child Express Their Feelings: Help them create an emotional equation
Simply listening to your child will help them better express their feelings. If they are upset, trying to talk to you, and you are being dismissive or frustrated, they will feel the same way. Even though we know that children sometimes feel the need to have an outburst over something you know is unreasonable, take time to hear them.
Help them formulate their emotional equation: understanding what caused it, understanding what they are feeling, and curating a plan for next steps. This can look like your child being upset that it’s their sibling’s turn to use a toy. They may come to you upset and crying over that fact.
Bend down to their level and go somewhere separate from whatever is upsetting them. Ask them, “Now, why do you think you feel this upset?” They will answer about how although they already had their turn playing with the toy, they want it back again. Ask them, “how does it make you feel to not be able to play with the toy right now?”. In this step, they may need some assistance in properly establishing an emotion.
Next, help them create a plan. “Well, you know that you and your sister take turns with the toy. How about next time, your sister gets to play with it first, and then you have it second. That way, you won’t have to worry about giving it up to share. Another option is to understand why sharing is so important, so you can understand why we have you share.”
Offering them options rather than telling them that they have no control over it will help them build confidence in expressing their emotions. Regardless, you know that your child has the ability to formulate their feelings. It takes time, and can be difficult for them at first.
It’s important for you to offer an ear to their situation. They may not even want a solution, but just want to feel upset about something. Take time to show them love and care while they are being vulnerable and open with you. When you tell a child to not seek out help or not show any emotions, you create a stigma for them. This stigma entails that children who seek out help or show emotions are weak or doing something wrong.
As a parent, you should make it your priority to ensure your child feels comfortable and safe disclosing their feelings to you. Even if you think it’s ridiculous or unreasonable, your child does not know that. You have a responsibility to ensure that your child grows up accepting those hard feelings and emotions – not denying them. They will be much better off learning to regulate their emotions at a young age than bottling them up and expressing them in a negative way.
You can learn how to manage your frustration with your children on a regular basis to ensure you are not modeling negative behavior.
Child therapists in Simi Valley, Ca, help your family find ways to better communicate and work together.
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