How to Help Your Child Express Feelings

One thing I really want my kids to learn is how to express themselves effectively. I grew up in a household where we ‘just got on with it’ and feelings weren’t acknowledged or ever talked about. In later years I would clam up when people talked about feelings because it so unfamiliar and I didn’t know how to communicate in this way. So when I felt big feelings, they were often swept under the carpet and I often didn’t have the ability to identify what was going on inside. It was confusing and often debilitating.

It took years to develop the art of being able to communicate effectively and I definitely now know the benefits of being able to express myself. Our thoughts and feelings guide us through the day, from how we make decisions to how well we connect with people in our lives. Bottling up emotions affects us in ways we often don’t understand until we feel stressed, anxious, and depressed. It rarely has a positive outcome.

So now I’m doing my best to ensure that at least my kids are exposed to feelings. There have been big feelings expressed in our house in ineffective ways, like yelling, hitting and name calling and as a parent I often feel frustrated and disappointed. However, in the last year I’ve been trying to help my kids express those big emotions in a more effective way. I’ve found the most effective tool to help them is a feelings chart, which I use in the calm moments, like at breakfast or at dinner to ask the kids how they’re feeling and what’s behind that feeling.

What you can expect to start hearing with the aid of the chart are words like:

I’m angry because you sent me to my to my room

I’m hurt because Lilly ruined my picture

I’m excited because it’s Jacks birthday

I’m annoyed because you made me turn the tv off and I want to relax

What children learn to do is identify the emotions in their body and express this. My eldest son has been the one I’ve wanted to help the most here as he’s naturally quite an introvert and often keeps his thoughts and feelings to himself. This morning for he first time in a year, I heard him express himself effectively to his younger brother. He was feeling angry and managed to talk about this in the heat of the moment, which I think is really amazing. The point here is it took a long time to develop this muscle, but eventually the effort paid off. Hopefully it continues (fingers crossed!) And I think as parents if we keep persevering, one day something clicks.

Kids need to be able to express themselves verbally and talk about how they feel because this helps them be heard. When we start with helping them to express the simple emotions and what’s behind that feeling, it helps build their communication skills and express from their heart.

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