Have you ever used emotional cues to know what goes on inside your child’s mind? Were you ever worried that he might not be able to express his emotions as clearly as you want him to? If your answer is yes to both questions, then it only means that you understand your child’s fundamental need to express himself.
Teaching your child to express his emotions enables him to grow up well-balanced and well-rounded. Denying him the liberty to express his feelings may cause severe emotional issues in later life.
When you observe your child at an early age, you’ll see that he is very much in touch with his emotions. But more often than not, he doesn’t know how to label these feelings. As his mom, it is your responsibility to observe and label your child’s feelings and teach him how to respond to those emotions in appropriate and socially acceptable ways. Remember, kids learn through repetition, so it is vital to reiterate and reaffirm your child consistently so he can practice identifying and expressing his emotions.
Talk and Listen
Take time to talk to your child regularly. Let him express what he is feeling. And while doing it, listen intently and observe his body language. Often times, your child won’t clearly express his feelings in one clear sentence. He usually blurts out his feelings in stories and fragmented phrases. Be patient with him and draw out the answers through follow-up questions. For example, he felt bad that his friends made fun of him in front of their classmates. You can gently ask him questions like “why did you feel bad”, “what would you have expected your friends to do” or “what was your initial reaction when they laughed at you”. By allowing your child to express his emotions, you are able to validate his feelings, thus making him feel understood.
Talking is also cathartic for him as his frustrations and anger will be released. After letting him answer your questions, you can share with him a similar experience where you felt hurt by people close to you. Then reveal what you did afterwards. Maybe you can say something like “I have forgiven my friends, because sometimes people make mistakes they don’t mean.” Disclosing such information would assure him that he’s not the only one in the world experiencing this kind of emotion. It would also help him process and move on from his current emotional state. When you take time to listen and encourage your child to express his feelings, you’re actually building a trusting relationship that will help in years to come.
Just like other moms, you have probably filled up his room with so many books already. This is a good thing! Because books are one of the many ways you can teach your child about emotions. The characters in the stories will help him identify what he is feeling at the moment. What happens to the characters helps him see emotions in a more tangible manner. According to Dr. Phil Strain, professor of educational psychology and psychiatry at the University of Colorado, Denver, “Kids who have a larger vocabulary to describe their emotions tend to have fewer behavioral problems. That’s because naming a feeling is the first step in coming up with a solution.” Books with strong emotional themes can also be handy in teaching your child about feelings. Why not check these titles highly recommended by amazon.com.
- Brave by Marjie Braun Knudsen
- Nobody’s Perfect by Ellen Flanagan Burns
- Charlottes’s Web by Garth Williams
- Freddy goes to Florida by Walter R. Brooks
- Ramona Quimby, age 8 by Beverly Clearly
If these books are not available in your area, you can always check your local bookstores for books with feelings as main themes. Or you can ask your circle of friends for recommendations. Better yet, take time to read summaries and reviews from the Internet of possible books you can buy for your child.
Create a “feeling corner” in your house. Attach different faces with different emotions on the wall. Be specific with the emotions you’ll be attaching on the faces. Some examples could be disappointed, lonely, happy, excited, angry, worried, afraid and embarrassed. Click here if you want to download and print these faces, which you can easily stick on your wall. These faces will be the tools to help your child express his feelings. For example, he comes home from school unusually quiet. You can ask him to go to the feeling corner to show you what’s on his mind. After getting the face (for example he gets the disappointed face) that matches his feelings, ask him if he wants to talk about it. If he agrees, then drop whatever you’re doing and make time to listen! In case he doesn’t want to talk about it, give him enough time and space to process. And then you can ask him again; by this time he might be ready to talk.
Another way to help bring out his emotions is through music. Make a compilation of his favorite songs and have him choose which one he feels like listening to. Having a familiar song playing in the background will instantly put him at ease and make opening up a much more comfortable experience for him.
Have you ever noticed that in some movies a psychologist would always ask a child to express his feelings through drawings? This often helps the child open up, and in some cases vent out feelings that are bottled up inside. Why not apply this same exercise at home?
Encourage your child to release his feelings through creative arts. Give him clay, paint, crayons, and then tell him to shape or draw his feelings. For example, he just had a fight with his playmate. Instead of releasing his frustration, you notice he just sulks in his room, not speaking a word. Give him a sheet of paper and ask him to draw what happened. Encourage him to use a color that would best describe his mood. If he uses dark colors like red or black, this maybe a telltale sign that he is in a really bad mood. After allowing him to release his emotions, you can then ask gently if he wants to talk about it. Again, if he’s ready to talk, listen intently. But if not, give him some time then try again. It is important that you know the story that led to these emotions. And if there are things that need clarification, even correction, now is the time to address it. Allowing your child to undergo these activities would be beneficial to his emotional health, most especially if what he’s harboring are negative feelings already. By venting out, he is being released from emotions that may have negative effects on his health.
Teaching your child to identify what he is feeling and then modeling and encouraging him to respond appropriately are such worthwhile investments to make in your child’s life. Not only will it strengthen his mental health, he will also grow up to lead a much fuller life. He will be a person who doesn’t just understand his feelings, but also knows how to cope with them.