It used to be very popular to make children ďsuck upĒ their emotions, especially boys. It was also common to assign emotions to girls that they may or may not have. This created an entire generation of people who had trouble dealing with their emotions. Then they raised more kids who canít deal with their emotions. Therapy bills skyrocketed.
Well, it might not be that bad, but the truth is, studies are showing that learning to cope with emotions in a healthy manner is one of the most important life skills that you can teach your children. Proper emotional balance is an essential life skill that will help your child become successful at so many things including education, career and the most important of all, interpersonal relationships.
Let Your Child Express Emotions without Judgment
When your child is showing that they are sad, angry, and lonely or whatever emotion they are having, allow them to express it. If they are acting out in an unhealthy manner, teach them to redirect to a more healthy expression of the feelings. If you do this without judging or telling them they are wrong for feeling how they feel, they will learn to express their emotions in a healthier manner.
Demonstrate Your Own Emotions and How You Deal with Them
Children learn by example. If you are not good at handling your own emotions, it will be hard for your child to learn to handle theirs. When you are feeling a certain way, express it in words to your child. ďMommy is sad because the dog is sick.Ē, ďDaddy is happy because you got an A on your test.Ē Or ďMommy is angry because you did not clean your room.Ē And so forth. This type of verbalization of your emotions will help your child start seeing the signs of emotions and understand facial and body language cues better increasing their capacity for empathy.
Use Television Shows and News to Prompt Discussions about Feelings
When you watch a TV show or news report that mentions something that could happen in your childís life such as bullying, take that opportunity to discuss it and different scenarios. Ask your child, ďHow would that make you feel?Ē and ďHow will you show your feelings?Ē or ďWhat is a good way to deal with that situation?Ē Discussing the potential things that can happen will give your child a frame of reference to call on when needed, without having to experience the situation first hand.
Keep the Lines of Communication Open
Have an open door policy with your children so that they are not fearful of coming to you when they have a problem. When they do come with you, ask open-ended questions instead of ďyesĒ or ďnoĒ questions so that they can fully express what they want to talk about. Do not show your fear or judgment as they talk to you. Itís okay to verbalize how you feel once they get it all out, but be sure to explain that your feelings do not take away from their right to feel how they want to feel.
Give Your Child Tools to Deal with Their Emotions
As an adult, you have a lifetime of experience that you can wrap around any one experience to help you deal with strong emotions. Children do not have that. To an eighth grade girl, breaking up with her boyfriend is the worst thing that has ever and will ever happen to them. They feel the love even stronger than we do, as well as the pain of loss. They feel it more because itís all new to them. Acknowledge that, and show them through your example how to cope.