As children grow and develop as people, they begin to experiment with a range of many different emotions. Anger, frustration, sadness, jealousy, resentment…but also happiness, excitement, and other positive ones too.
For children, these many different emotions are mostly still uncharted territory, and they are still learning to figure out what they mean, why they appear, and how to control them.
The way in which you respond and react to your kid’s emotions will make a life long-lasting impact that will affect the way in which they showcase emotions, and regulate them.
This is why it is so important to make sure you are having healthy responses to the emotions of your child so that they are able to work through their emotions, figure them out, and learn to self-regulate so that they can be functional through more complicated or conflicting situations.
It can be very easy to accidentally have a bad reaction to your child’s emotions, especially on days in which you yourself are tired, frustrated, or angry.
However, we’ve compiled a list with 5 simple yet healthy responses that you can get into the habit of practicing with your child, so that they grow up having their emotions properly validated in the best way possible.
Let’s get right into it!
Five Healthy Responses to your Child’s Emotions
Here are our top five healthy responses to practice and use when your child is expressing any sort of emotions. They work when used consistently, and should be integrated into everyday learning and life.
Acknowledge the Emotions and Talk About Them
It is incredibly important that your child is able to define how they are feeling, and discuss it so that emotions can be recognized and dealt with appropriately.
The first step is to teach them about different emotions, so that your child has a name for what they are feeling, making it slightly more manageable and within their grasp. This can especially help with avoiding children from becoming overwhelmed by emotions.
For example, if your child is crying, talk to them about whether they are sad, or angry, or in pain. Talk about what these different emotions are, and how to identify them, and then allow the child to express their own opinion on them, and how or why they are feeling that way.
Another good way of talking about emotions is by using characters in films or in books as examples. You can ask things such as “how do you think this character is feeling, and why?” This can help the child learn to identify emotions better so that they are in turn able to talk about their own emotions with you when they arise.
Differentiate Feelings from Behaviors
Validating and acknowledging emotions is important, but at the same time, it is highly important to teach your child that certain emotions do not justify certain behaviors that come attached to them. Depending on the circumstances and the location, acceptable behaviors vary.
For example, you can’t just start screaming out in frustration in the middle of the street, even if you feel that way really strongly, and you can’t just throw a temper tantrum in school because you are angry.
This is where teaching to differentiate between feelings and behaviors comes in. Your child should be able to feel any emotion that comes to them, and all emotions are allowed and valid. You cannot limit what they feel.
However, there is a difference between what you feel, and what you do. Teach your child that emotions are uncontrollable, but actions are. Therefore, they can choose how they respond to their own emotions, by making sure they act properly, regardless of what they feel.
A good example to use is that even though you might feel very angry at someone, you are still not allowed to hit them or shout at them. Make it very clear that when you put them in time out during a tantrum, it is because of their actions, and not because of their emotions.
Validate the Emotions, and Show that You Relate to Them
It is very easy to accidentally minimize or trivialize the emotions of a child. It is very often that a parent will say something along the lines of “stop being upset”, or “it’s not a big deal, calm down”. This isn’t said with ill intention, but it can be very damaging.
Instead, it is important to reassure the child that having feelings is okay, and no matter how small a problem is, it can still make you feel very big things and that it is completely valid.
It is also important to show the child you understand how they feel, by relating to them. So if they are angry or sad, you can tell them about how you are sometimes angry or sad, giving them examples and explaining how you deal with those situations and emotions.
This will allow the child to feel connected to you and will validate their emotions even more. Otherwise, children can begin to feel isolated and might begin to think that they shouldn’t be feeling these things because maybe others don’t.
However, relating to the emotions and validating them doesn’t mean allowing your child to stay in them indefinitely. It is also important to emphasize that emotions are passing and that it is necessary to work towards feeling good and positive. If you are angry, you don’t just go “I’m angry”. You go “I’m angry, this is how I stop being angry.”
Accept Emotions (Even the bad ones)
When children become overwhelmed by strong emotions, this can often lead them to be confused. Sometimes, you will also not understand why your child is feeling a certain way.
And that is completely okay. You won’t always have an answer as to why certain emotions make an appearance. This is why it is important to teach children that it is okay to feel a certain way and that it is normal.
If they think they always need a reason, they might get frustrated with themselves when they don’t have one. So teaching them acceptance of emotions can be very reassuring and beneficial.
Also, not everyone feels the same or gets the same emotions from the same situations. Normalize the acceptance of every child’s emotions, no matter what they are.
Teach Self-regulating Techniques
Once you have learned to respond to your child’s emotions in a positive and accepting way, it is important that you learn to incorporate lessons of self-regulation. Teaching your child to self-regulate their emotions is one of the most important things to do, and one of the best ways of ensuring that they are in control of their feelings, and able to move forward from them.
Teach your child about different self-regulating techniques, and ways in which they can calm themselves down when they get overwhelmed. How to quiet down anger when it’s loud in their head, how to overcome anxiety or fear, and how to not trip up over hyper-excitement.
There are many different techniques you can teach, from deep breathing to counting in their head, or learning to remove themselves from a situation in order to calm down before returning.
It is also important to do this with your child so that you are working together to problem-solve and overcome new situations and scenarios. With time, your child will be able to recognize the signs, and they will be capable of self-regulating in order to avoid tantrums and other displays of strong or negative emotions.
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