When children learn to manage their emotions in childhood, it leads to positive attitudes and behaviors later in life. Children who learn healthy ways to express and cope with their feelings are more likely
- Be empathic and supportive of others
- Perform better in school and their career
- Have more positive and stable relationships
- Have good mental health and well-being
- Develop resilience and coping skills
- Feel more competent, capable and confident
- Have a positive sense of self
Learning how to help your child identify, express and manage their emotions starts with helping your child express their feelings. Here’s how:
Cues – Sometimes feelings can be hard to identify. Tune into your child’s feelings by looking at their body language, listening to what they’re saying and observing their behavior. Figuring out what they feel and why, means you can help them identify, express and manage those feelings better.
Behind every behavior is a feeling – Try to understand the meaning and feeling behind your child’s behavior. You can help your child find other ways to express that feeling once you know what is driving the behavior.
Name the feeling – Help your child name their feelings by giving them a label. Naming feelings is the first step in helping children learn to identify them. It allows your child to develop an emotional vocabulary so they can talk about their feelings. Happy, sad, confused, lonely, frustrated, angry, embarrassed, scared, excited, etc.
Identify feelings in others – Provide lots of opportunities to identify feelings in others. You might ask your child to reflect on what someone else may be feeling. Cartoons or picture books are a great way to discuss feelings and this helps children learn how to recognize other people’s feelings.
Be a role model – Children learn about feelings and how to express them appropriately by watching others. Show and tell your child how you’re feeling about different situations and how you deal with those feelings.
Normalize feelings – Praise your child when they talk about their feelings or express them in an appropriate way. Not only does it show that feelings are normal and it’s ok to talk about them, it reinforces the behavior so they are likely to repeat it.
Listen to your child’s feelings – Stay present and resist the urge to make your child’s bad feelings go away. Support your child to identify and express their feelings so they are heard. When feelings are minimized or dismissed, they will often be expressed in unhealthy ways.
Linda Glaser is the Director of Social & Emotional Education for the Community Circle LA Program and a member of the EQuip Our Kids! Speaker Bureau.