Children are not immune to feelings. Like adults, sometimes, they may struggle to find the right words to communicate their feelings. As a parent, it is up to you to teach them how to identify and manage their emotions.
You need to normalize the behavior of showing and communicating emotions and feelings. Learning healthy ways to cope and express oneself can prevent future behavioral problems. Helping your children communicate how they feel sets them up for success in terms of resolving conflicts.
There is also no harm in taking your child for counseling to learn various communication techniques that they can use in everyday situations and, more importantly, to open them up. When a child refuses to communicate with the parents, it can strain the relationship between the two.
Therefore, it is better to visit a counselor than deal with it on your own. If the lack of communication has not reached to the extreme, you can encourage your child to communicate their feelings by following these tips.
1. Share Your Feelings
When you share, your children share. Start by opening yourself up to your child, telling them little details about your day and ask them about their day. When they tell you about their day, listen attentively and ask follow-up questions so they know you are listening.
If your child does not share, do not take that as a defeat. Continue to share your feelings with your child. When your child does start sharing, do not make negative or judgmental comments that may cause them to stop sharing. You need to give them a safe space for sharing. If your child says something concerning, give them advice and suggestions, but in a friendly tone, not in your mom or dad voice.
2. Do Not Scold Your Children for Expressing Their Emotions
You want to communicate to your child that expressing your emotions is okay. There is nothing wrong with crying or being angry or upset. Avoid saying phrases, such as “Why are you sad?” or “Why are you crying?” Saying this sends a wrong message to your child, indirectly teaching them that showing your emotions is a bad thing.
This is especially true for young boys. If they cry, console them instead of saying, “Boys don’t cry!” Crying is an emotion, so regardless of gender, let them express themselves through it instead of discouraging or looking down upon them from showing it.
3. Do As You Want Them to Do
When you tell your children to use their words when they are angry or upset, but you throw your phone against the wall to express yourself, you are contradicting yourself. Your child will repeat what they see. If mom and dad do not use their words, so why should we?
Do not let that become your child’s thought pattern but become a role model for expressing your feelings in a healthy manner that does not involve breaking things. For parents who do not have control over their feelings, practicing mindfulness can help calm them down and reflect on the situation before they act on it.
4. Try Not to Punish Them
When your child misbehaves, your first reaction is to punish them. You need to resist the urge to punish them, which means no spankings, no time outs, no shaming, and no telling them consequences. Given, you are trying to correct your child’s behavior, but you are also telling your child that displaying bad emotions led to the punishment.
To avoid punishments, your child may close themselves off to you, until one day, when their cup is too full and overflowing with emotions, they will burst, spiraling into a complete and total meltdown. Starting from a young age, teach your child how to communicate their feelings by speaking in a proper tone instead of yelling and doing certain activities that encourage expression, such as drawing.
You can also encourage one-on-one time with them to discuss what they are going through. Hear their side. Understand why they feel the way they feel. Continue this one-on-one practice as they grow older.
5. Look for Opportunities for Teaching Moments
Talk to your child about feelings and coping strategies whenever an opportunity arises. You can bring up the topic at dinner, grocery shopping, in the car, at bedtime, and any other time you deem appropriate. It would be a bad idea to bring it up if they are busy playing, not paying attention, angry or upset, or not in the mood to talk about it.
If your child has a hard time expressing themselves, follow these tips to encourage them to communicate their feelings. Remember, keeping everything in just creates a volcano of feelings that can erupt at any time.
About the Author
Mind Wellness Counseling provides support and guidance to people using evidence-based therapy. They offer several different types of counseling in the greater Detroit area. This includes couples and individual counseling, mindfulness coaching, emotional freedom technique, mental fitness training, and EMDR therapy. Counseling is given by a trained, experienced, and certified counselor.