When your child throws a tantrum, your first reflex may be to tell them to stop or put them in timeout. These responses can fix the initial meltdown, but your kid still hasn’t learned to express themselves. It’s tough for children to deal with such “big” emotions, so they’ll channel them through actions until you find a solution.
Check out 10 ways to help your kids figure out how to deal with their feelings.
1. Recognize Specific Cues
It can be challenging to figure out what your toddler does because they can’t use words. Still, you need to learn their cues so you help them manage their emotions.
Here are a few body language indicators that point to specific feelings:
- If they can’t look you in the eye, they might be embarrassed.
- If they start throwing toys or hitting you, they could be bored, tired or annoyed.
- If they try hiding under their shirt while meeting someone, they’re anxious.
If you can pick up on your child’s tells, you should be able to respond better.
3. Try to Lead by Example
How often do you talk about your own feelings? This action can be challenging, especially when you might’ve grown up in a family that didn’t discuss their emotions. However, you can’t expect your children to be expressive when you’re not.
If you explain your feelings, your kids will follow suit. Don’t hide the stress you feel when your vehicle unexpectedly won’t start. Instead, you should say, “I’m frustrated and overwhelmed because the car doesn’t work, and now we’re going to be late.” This emotional language helps your children become more empowered and comfortable regarding their own emotions.
3. Practice, Practice, Practice
Everyone needs practice when they learn a new skill. Therefore, you should incorporate expression into everyday activities. When you sit down to eat breakfast before school, you can ask your kids how they feel about the day ahead. Try a similar approach in other scenarios.
There’s also a link between play and expression, especially with imagination. If your kids have a safe space to be themselves, they can develop specific communication traits to help them be expressive in the real world. Make an effort to practice through play whenever possible.
4. Encourage Progress With Praise
Remember to praise your kids as they make progress. Most parents know positivity can be impactful, so you should tell them good job every time they verbally express their emotions. This encouragement will show your children they can and should talk about feelings.
5. Use Simple Words and Pictures
If your child cries because they lost their favorite stuffed animal, they don’t really know that they’re sad. While they might feel that way, they can’t say, “I’m sad because I lost my toy,” since they can’t define sadness. That’s why you should label feelings.
Use simple words and pictures to teach your kids about different emotions. Books will be your best tool, as children can see characters with facial expressions that indicate certain feelings. It’s the perfect way to teach kids to identify emotions in themselves and others.
6. Be a Better Listener
It may be time for you to learn a new skill, too. Those who know how to listen deeply and actively can better support expression. Being present matters — because otherwise, you may appear disinterested or dismissive, which discourages your kids from telling you what’s up.
7. Let Them Have Quiet Time
Anyone who identifies as an introvert knows that quiet time makes a difference. This time alone can help you feel rejuvenated and recharged — and you get space to deal with your emotions. It could be smart to allocate daily quiet time to “wait out” specific feelings.
8. Teach Sign Language
Babies can’t use words to express themselves, which means there’s a communication gap. Many parents teach sign language basics to their children at a young age so they can overcome that barrier. It’ll time, but your kids will be able to use sign language to say what’s wrong.
9. Find and Offer a Solution
No parent always has the right answer. However, you should strive to meet each problem with a solution. This way, you can teach your children how to deal with emotions healthily. Work to find reasonable and actionable methods that help them feel better.
10. Don’t Suppress Their Emotions
It’s not always easy, but you have to keep in mind that children internalize everything. If you say, “You’re such a drama queen,” when your kid cries for a seemingly pointless reason, you’re telling them you don’t care about their feelings. Plus, you want to validate their emotions even when they seem trivial, as that’s the only way to work through them.
Use These Tips to Help Your Kids Be Master Communicators
Adults themselves don’t always know how to best express their emotions. Why do we expect kids to communicate their feelings all on their own? These tips will help your kids discover how to express and handle everything from sadness to joy to nervousness.
Then, they’ll be ready to take on the world.