The following tools and strategies (when used honestly and consistently) will help teach your child to be confident in their ability to identify, understand and manage their emotions appropriately.
1. As adults, we can (and often do) repress our emotions and deny that they exist. We foolishly tell ourselves it’s simpler or better that way. We shouldn’t… It is much healthier and better for your mental health (and the wellbeing of your family) to express your feelings and emotions instead. By doing this, we model a healthy appreciation and relationship with emotions for our children. We help them better understand what they are feeling and why, and help them find appropriate ways to cope with and work through them. As parents, we shouldn’t shy away from emotions such as frustration, anger or sadness. These are equally as valid as emotions deemed better and more acceptable, such as happiness and being calm.
2. Ask questions such as, “ I understand you feel angry. What do you think would be a good way to deal with this?”, rather than, “Stop being silly, it isn’t important.” Asking questions normalizes the situation and allows your child to acknowledge their emotions, explore alternatives and choose how they respond to challenging feelings. They are encouraged to find a solution to problems that are causing them discomfort.
3. While you may not always understand your child’s emotions; it can be helpful to let them hear that you are aware that they are working through some feelings. Struggling to know how to respond to your child is completely normal, and it’s important to understand that you don’t have to “fix” all of their worries. If you simply acknowledge your child and their situation, you will help them feel validated and seen.
4. Using reflection as a tool creates a loving and safe environment for your child to discuss how they feel. Listening and using their language to reflect their feelings is validating and allows your child to feel heard. It can also present the opportunity for further discussion. No emotions are too small to ignore. By engaging fully with our emotions, we become more confident and self-assured.
5. Empathy is a meaningful way we can help our child to identify and understand emotions (their own and other people’s). Seeing the world from someone else’s perspective, and connecting their behavior with how they may be feeling, teaches children to accept that people can have different thoughts and emotions, and this is okay. Empathy supports communication and reduces frustration. When we are empathic with our children, we can understand their worries and offer appropriate support.
6. If your child is experiencing a severe emotion, such as anger, hate, fright or frustration, you can help them diffuse their feelings by modelling breathing techniques with them. Suggest they count backwards from 10 slowly or count to 20 with breathing in for a four-count, holding for 4, breathing out for 4, and holding for a count of 4.
7. Exercise promotes good emotional health, reduces stress and tension, and helps produce endorphins. Physical activity can also be a great distraction and/or re-purpose of your chid’s energy. Playing their favorite sport or outdoor play can provide a safe environment to exert energy and an opportunity for emotions to pass through the body.
8. Be aware of your child’s body language and environment to head off any potential explosive behavior. Time outs, taking a break or doing a different task for a while can help your child self-regulate and calm down.
9. Let your child know that it is okay to speak to anyone that you both trust. It can sometimes be uncomfortable to share feelings with parents, so having another trusted adult to talk to can help your child to feel validated without fear of judgement. The most important thing is that conversations happen, and togetherAI can help with this.
Using these tools consistently, you can teach your child to be confident in solving lots of their issues and confident in their ability to manage their emotions appropriately.