What were things like in your family of origin? Many of us came from families where there was a ban on emotional expression. When you were upset, sad or disappointed, you may have found that the response was:
- ‘You can’t feel like that!’ (Your feeling is dismissed)
- ‘It’s not that bad!’ (Your feeling is diluted)
- ‘You’ll get over it!’ (Your feeling is ignored)
Help Your Child Understand Their Feelings
Children learn to suppress feelings when they have no one to go to instead of having those feelings processed with a parents help. Children are clever and they learn not to come back the next time they feel that way.
The Parents Story
We all bring our own baggage into parenting. My own personal experience was that following my father’s death, there was no one to go to with my feelings. Sadly, in my early parenting years, I parented in the same way, so my children who came to me with their feelings, were not met in the way that they needed. Every parent does their best, but with what they got themselves. I have learnt the importance of feelings and that they are the key to understanding behaviour.
Tell me about your challenging child, and I will ask you to tell me how you think he feels or what he is thinking. We know that all behaviour has a reason and that when children feel right, they show it in their behaviour.
Recognising What Your Child Feels
Maybe, you like me need to learn how to get in touch with how your child is feeling so you can help them process it and move beyond it? Here are some examples of how to get in touch with how the child feels by naming their feeling:
- ‘Sounds like you’re really angry with your brother? What would be helpful here?’
- ‘I’m guessing you are disappointed about that, you were looking forward to it’
- ‘I see 2 boys who both want the toy; how can you share so you’re both happy?’
- ‘Two of you want to watch different shows on TV… that’s hard… what’s your plan?’
- ‘You seem upset, can you tell me about it?’
- ‘Use your words, not your actions; say more about how you feel?’
Acknowledge What They Are Feeling
When we name their feeling, we may name it correctly or not. They may say ‘It’s not that, I feel’
Using the above statements, gives children an emotional vocabulary and it as important as particularly boys have 4 words to describe good and bad feelings – it’s not enough so they use their Actions instead of words.
When we actively listen we must show it by looking at them. This sounds obvious, but the child has no idea whether we are focused on what they are saying unless we Stop, Look and Listen. Listening to them means they tell you how they feel and it is helpful to ‘play it back to them’. ‘So, what I’m hearing is – you are not angry, but more disappointed with the way the match ended, have I understood you?’