When you help your children learn how to share their emotions, you help each child mature and express himself in healthy ways.
Here are some steps you can take to help your children share their feelings and also develop good coping skills:
Lead by example.
As a parent, you cannot expect your kids to process their emotions if you do not share how you feel. If you bottle your emotions inside and scream and blow-up as a result, so will your kids. You must intentionally lead each child so he or she will see what this looks like in action. Actions speak much louder than words. Your children learn firsthand from you, so be sure you are teaching them the right lessons.
Ask them how they feel.
This is a very important question because some difficult situations arise simply because a child is feeling overwhelmed. He does not know specifically how he feels. Be patient and kind and ask him to use his words to describe what is going on. A great practical exercise is to ask a lot of questions when you read them a story. Ask, “how do you think this character would feel?” while you read the book. Over time, the child will grow to understand more about emotions because they practiced articulating them from a young age.
Be honest and open.
This specifically refers to how you talk with your children. Honesty helps tear down barriers. If you are frustrated with a situation, explain why this is the case and state clearly that you are very sad. You will likely have to repeat yourself and give examples. As an adult, we recognize many of these things automatically, but children take time and some kids develop faster than others.
Be intentional and do not demand more than your child can give. Remember, sometimes a child does not know how to express feelings such as being stressed, tired or overwhelmed. These are very valuable lessons which will help them later in life. When you learn to recognize your emotions, you are less likely to choose substances as a coping mechanism.
If you have any questions about how to teach your children about coping skills and to express their feelings, please call our helpline and talk to one of our counselors. They are available 24 hours a day and trained in this area. The counselor will listen carefully to your concerns and provide guidance to help you communicate the situation to your kids.