Whoa, Whoa, Whoa, Feelings
Face it. We are emotional creatures.
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Our kids weren’t born walking or reciting the ABCs. We had to coach and guide them. And while our kids were born with the hard-wiring to feel, it is up to us to teach them how to express their feelings appropriately.
Step 1: Validate your child’s feelings.
Letting kids know you understand how they feel shows that you think they and their feelings are important. A child who feels important is more likely to cooperate and have high self-esteem. Playback what you hear and nod your head in agreement. “You really miss Daddy, don’t you? I’m sorry he’s not home now. I miss him too.” When your child cries because there is no more milk, validation will shorten the episode, lecturing on how frivolous it is to cry over a temporary milk shortage will only exacerbate the situation for you and the child. Simply validate his feelings enough to show you care (not ad nauseam), suggest alternatives and move on.
Step 2: Help your child label her feelings.
Give your child the language to express her feelings and you will reduce the amount of frustration you both feel during emotional outbursts. Soon throwing a fit will become a pastime and statements and discussions will become the norm. Children who learn to recognize and manage their feelings learn to have empathy for others’ feelings. Try, “It must be disappointing when your friend won’t share, huh?” or “Are you frustrated that you can’t tie your shoes?” And for the child who expresses her feelings inappropriately, try “It’s okay to feel frustrated/disappointed/angry, it’s not okay to hit.”
Step 3: Share your feelings.
Model the appropriate expression of positive and negative feelings. When you feel happy, share your joy and include your children in the positive feeling (e.g. dance around, give them a hug). When you feel sad or angry demonstrate how you stay in control. Ask for some time alone. Take deep breaths or count backwards from 10 in front of your child. Remember, kids learn by example.
Step 4: Become a feeling household.
When reading stories together, ask your child how the character is feeling? Or how will the character feel if this happens or if that happens? When watching TV or a movie, pause the show and ask how your child would feel if s/he were in that situation. When playing games with your children and something does not seem fair, ask how your child feels. Or ask your child how they think you feel when the child doesn’t play the game properly.
That’s it for now. Thank you, Stacey, for sharing your writing with us again.
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