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Ways to teach children how to express their feelings

Kids experience a myriad of emotions just like adults. They, too, get frightened, frustrated, sad, angry and irritated, and it is imperative for their mental health that they learn to identify their feelings and find a way to express them in a positive manner.

Our brains process each of our life experiences and link them to emotions. Only positive emotions are considered natural and socially appropriate, which is why we often repress the many unpleasant ones we experience each day.

Scientists argue that it is crucial for our well-being to be able to express our emotions in a constructive manner not only when we feel happy, but at times of anger, sadness or any other unpleasant state of being.

Why it’s so important to teach kids how to express their feelings

Kids that are in touch with their emotions are more likely to
-    Be more resilient and confident when coping with difficulties;
-    Be more empathetic and supportive towards others;
-    Be better at maintaining healthy and stable relationships; 
-    Display fewer behavioral problems, if any;
-    Be better at coping with stress;
-    Have good mental health and general wellbeing.

How we can teach them ways in which they can express their feelings

Teach them about emotions

It is imperative that our children learn to identify simple emotions at an early age. For example, you could show them what a happy, sad or angry person would look like. As they grow older, we may start sharing more complex emotions with them, such as disappointment, worry or anxiety.

Talk openly about your feelings

Take the time at the end of each day to ask your kids about all the things that made them happy, sad or angry. Break those feelings down and discuss them together.
Show them how to put their feelings into words by coming up with some of your own. For example, you could say, “I got really upset when you refused to share candy with your little brother today. I think he’s sad about that, too.”

Teach your kids how to name their feelings

When your child is going through an emotional experience, help them name their feelings. Tune into your child’s feeling by observing their behavior and body language and listening to what they’re saying. That is bound to help you figure out what they’re going through. You could aid them by saying, “I can see you’re scared,” or “I can see you’re angry,” or “I can see you’re really excited about our little ice-cream run” etc.

Teach them how to identify feelings in others

Give your kids a chance to observe and identify the feelings of those around them. Analyzing emotions of their favorite characters could be a great way to start. For example, you could ask them while they’re watching a cartoon, “How would you say this character is feeling at the moment?” You may also take extra time after to discuss the nature and cause of these emotions. That is precisely how your child develops empathy.

Explain that negative emotions are totally okay and don’t ever undermine the way they feel

Never criticize your kids for negative emotions. If they are angry, let them be. But make sure you also teach them how to express these feelings in a constructive manner. Both girls and boys can be happy, angry or upset about something. Being a boy does not mean that you aren’t allowed to have feelings or the right to be sad. Unfortunately, when it comes to expressing emotions, numerous gender-specific stereotypes prevail to this day. You’ve probably heard something like “Why are you crying? Aren’t you a man, after all?!” If we really want to raise resilient children, then we must teach them the opposite—to express their feelings as much as possible. 

Regardless of whether you’re an adult or not, a boy or a girl, virtually anyone could use a shoulder to cry on every now and then. That is precisely why when you find your child weeping, you should never say, “Why are you crying?” or “Don’t cry”. Instead, you could say, “I understand that you are upset. If you feel like crying, you may cry as much as you want to.” And only afterwards shall we attempt to identify the underlying cause and seek a solution.

Listen closely

Try to be supportive and listen closely to what your kid has to say. Let them spill it all out and free themselves from the negative. Do make sure they have the freedom to express their positive emotions in full as well.

Be their role model

If you’re teaching your kid the importance of finding a constructive way of expressing their emotions but are failing to adhere to the same standard yourself, your words are bound to be pointless.
It is imperative to…
Cultivate emotional skills from an early age, all the way through adolescence. Children must be reminded constantly about the importance of being able to manage emotions in a healthy way, as each stage in their development poses new challenges and new emotional experiences that they will certainly need your help with.

It is imperative to…

Cultivate emotional skills from an early age, all the way through adolescence. Children must be reminded constantly about the importance of being able to manage emotions in a healthy way, as each stage in their development poses new challenges and new emotional experiences that they will certainly need your help with.