6 Steps for Helping Your Child Handle Emotions
Why Emotional Understanding is Important for Your Child:
One of the certainties of parenting is that your children will experience all sorts of emotions (sometimes all in one day!) and will routinely face circumstances they don't like. Helping your child to grow emotionally involves teaching them to recognize certain emotional responses in themselves and then to express those feelings appropriately.
Developing skills in this area will help your child to relate better to others, manage his or her behavior and cope with situations of all kinds. It may also be a great benefit to your parent-child relationship, as your child grows in his capacity to explain his disappointments or frustrations with words, rather than acting out.
As parents, we can't insulate our children from the ups and downs of life. What we can do is teach them to navigate those experiences in a way that grows their personal character as well as preserves and enhances the relationships in their lives.
What You Can Do:
- Give feelings a label. For your younger child, these names will be as basic as mad, sad and happy. As your child grows, those terms will become more specific and refined, such as frustrated, disappointed or anxious. Identifying and naming feelings is essential to learning how to cope with them.
- Discover the trigger. Help your child back up and identify what led to feeling this way. It might have been when you said "No." to something he asked to do, or something said or done by a sibling or friend.
- Affirm the right to talk it out. Let your child know that everyone feels these emotions sometimes, and that there's a right and a wrong way to express them. Let them know that they may not be able to help feeling how they do, but they can and should manage how they express that feeling. Your child must learn to be responsible for his or her words and reactions regardless of the situation.
- Teach specific coping skills. It may be helpful to your child to learn to remove herself from a situation, or take some time to think before responding. For a younger child, it might be as simple as counting to 10 before reacting.
- Don't try to fix everything. The idea is to help your children learn to work through the problem, not to simply remove the problem. Why? Because as they get older, you'll be less and less able to manipulate the world around your children and insulate them from crisis. Good parenting means training them to handle whatever they encounter with emotional maturity and integrity.
- Give emotional support. Often, all our children need is a good hug and an acknowledgement that we know how they feel. When your child is working through something, keep the standards of behavior high, but show lots of affection to help them along. Additionally, tell them how proud you are when you see them handling their emotions with increasing maturity and reacting appropriately to tough situations.
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