In part two of this series, I talked about labeling your child’s feelings so they can begin to put together what’s happening inside them, both physical feelings: hunger and sickness; and the feelings such as jealousy and disappointment. Today we are taking the next step, which is talking about those feelings. We can’t define a feeling for our kids, such as anger, and leave our child hanging without support.
How do we support them? The best way to get them to open up to you about how they feel is to spend quality time with your children. When you play with your young ones (see my post play=bonding time), it’s amazing how much they’ll begin to talk when the pressure is lifted.
I want to know everything about my daughter’s day at school, but often asking a million questions gets me nowhere. Yes, I am that mom. The annoying one. I find that when I ask simple questions and then spend time with Payton doing something: coloring, reading, or playing restaurant, she begins to open up, mentioning something that happened at school. I can then take an incident that transpired, like one of her friends moving, and ask how she feels about it. If she doesn’t know, I give her some time, and then tell her how I would feel if my friend moved away. I can also share a personal experience of dealing with a friend leaving, or how I felt when I moved all the time. The same thing can be done with older kids and teens. Spend time doing what they enjoy and they just might surprise you and say something.
As for asking your children questions, it’s okay to inquire, but keep it in check. If you pressure your child too much, you won’t get anything from them. I like to think of it as being a listening investigator, not a talking interrogator.
Find out what your child is feeling, whether they look happy, sad, or angry. Then occasionally ask them why they feel that way. Many of our hurting kids tend to revert to showing anger, even if they feel jealous, lonely, scared, hurt, hungry, or a host of other emotions and internal responses. When we help them identify what’s going on inside of them and then talk about why it’s happening, they can gain the ability to avoid deviating to the anger and rage every time. Wouldn’t it be lovely to hear your child say, “I was embarrassed,” instead of them avoiding you or yelling at you (and you having no idea what just hit)? I know I like it MUCH more. My daughter, Payton, can now identify many of her feelings, and we can often elude anger, rages, avoidance, and yelling. (This is also helped by bonding.)
In Daniel Seigel’s book The Whole-Brain Child, he recommends helping a child connect with their emotions through a story. You begin a story, it can be fictionalized, but similar to something your child is dealing with, and they can finish it. This is also a fantastic way to build their creativity and imagination.
Our positive interactions with our children will help them gain understanding and a comfortability with their feelings. In The Whole-Brain Child Daniel Seigel says, “Parents who speak with their children about their feelings have children who develop emotional intelligence and can understand their own and other people’s feelings more fully.”
Surprisingly, for all the struggles Payton has had, she’s actually very in tune with others. We talk about other’s feelings a lot. If we see a boy who is crying, we talk about why he might be sad or mad. If some girls walk away from a friend at the park, we talk about how that girl might be feeling lonely and what we, or she can do to help. When we watch movies, we discuss different situations, if she’s making a comment that a boy is angry, we talk about why that is.
Payton has always been very aware of the world around her, but now she has a sensitivity to it. She’s empathetic to what others are going through. I believe the greatest example of this is how she is with her brother who has Autism. She is incredibly attuned to what her brother is doing and feeling, many times she notices what he’s feeling or responding to even before we do. She cares for him deeply.
When we show interest in our child’s life, they will open up to us. When we label our child’s feelings and talk about them, they’ll be more in tune with how they feel and it will lessen the avoidance and anger.
If you missed the first two posts in this series here they are:
emotional balance begins with us (feelings: part 1)
name those feelings (feelings: part 2)
just deal with it (feelings: part 4)
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