“It’s the set of the sails, not the direction of the wind that determines which way we go.” – Jim Rohn
According to research, children who understand their feelings and learn about their emotions have the following advantages:
- They form stronger friendships with other children.
- They do better in school.
- They get sick less often.
- They calm themselves down more quickly when they get upset.
- They handle their moods better and have fewer negative emotions.
It’s important to teach children to identify and express their emotions. However, teaching children the different ways they can appropriately respond to specific feelings, conflicts, or problems is crucial.
There are many strategies you can use to teach new ways to appropriately express feelings:
- Talk about your own feelings with your children. “Remember yesterday when Mommy got so mad about the car that pulled in front of us? And do you remember what my face looked like when I got mad? Can you make a mad face like Mommy’s?”
- Talk with your children about different ways you deal with specific feelings. “When I get mad I take a deep breath, count to three, and then try to think of the best way to deal with my problem.” Let your children come up with ways they can deal with their feelings. Talk about positive and not so positive ways to express feelings.
- Give your children permission to feel and express emotions, but set clear limits on behaviour. Children need to feel safe in feeling and expressing negative emotions.
- When children misbehave, help them to identify their feelings and explain why their behaviour was inappropriate.
- Redirect misbehaving children for what they do, not what they feel.
- Guide your children and show them how they can express their feelings by using examples, expressions and scenarios.
- Encourage children to draw, colour or sculpt their feelings.
- A powerful way for children to express emotions, especially older children, is to write their feelings down. They can use poetry, song writing or short stories.
- Help children think through possible solutions and problem solving.
- Be aware of tempting settings and be prepared to help your child through them.
- Create situations where your children can explore without hearing lots of “don’ts”.
- Don’t expect too much too soon.
The most fundamental part of teaching your children the lifelong valued skill of handling emotions is by practicing responsible emotional management yourself. As with everything else, parents are the most powerful role models.