Talking about feelings can be a difficult thing to do. Some of us would rather bottle up our feelings up until we burst than tell someone they’ve upset us.
Not only does not expressing your feelings prolong emotional suffering, but it also prevents us from standing up for ourselves and making our voices heard.
By encouraging kids to communicate their feelings, you are helping them be more emotionally aware. This can help them perform better at school, be more empathetic and have a better sense of self.
Thankfully, it’s never too early or too late to start learning how to communicate our feelings and encouraging our kids to do so will benefit them now and when they’re older.
This post will run through a few simple ways you can encourage your child to start talking about their feelings, helping them build the foundations for healthy emotional expression that will serve them well into adulthood.
Let them know all emotions are OK
Feelings such as anger, fear and sadness are all too often lumped under the “bad emotion” category.
While these emotions are unpleasant, they each serve a very important purpose. Anger can let you know you need to stand up for an injustice, anxiety can prepare your body to face a threat, while sadness prompts us to seek help and comfort when we need it most.
Letting kids know that these feelings are ok and encouraging them to explore why they feel this way is a great place to start.
The more you understand something, the better equipped you are to deal with it. The same logic applies to our emotions, with kids being better equipped to manage these feelings the more they understand them.
Getting kids to name their emotions is a simple yet effective way to get kids to communicate their feelings.
It helps showing kids how to do this in practice. For example, statements like “I am so happy you got to see your friends today” or “today I saw a spider at work and that made me feel scared” will normalise bringing feelings into conversation, as well as giving real world examples of how emotions can pop up in day-to-day life.
The new Feelings feature on Spacetalk Adventurer is a fantastic tool for this, as children are encouraged to send mood updates from their watch. This gets them to stop and think about how they're feeling and choose the emoji that best represents their mood.
Over time, this labelling will go a long way in developing important emotional literacy skills, helping kids in all areas of development from their education, to making friends.
Be a role model
Kids naturally tend to copy things they see, so modelling what expressing emotions looks like in practice can help them to adopt these behaviours themselves.
When kids see what an emotion can look like and what a healthy response to that emotion can be, it helps kids understand it a little better.
For example, say your neighbour puts rubbish in your bin without asking and there’s no room left for yours. Rather than stomp around the house complaining, saying something like “I’m angry that our neighbour filled the bin without asking. I’m going to tell him he’s welcome to use our bin, but to please ask me first”.
In this example, you’re expressing how you feel by clearly labelling “anger” as well as how you’re using this emotion to find an effective solution to the problem.
One of the most vital parts of good communication is good listening skills.
When your child opens up about their feelings, listen attentively and let them speak. You might ask probing questions to help them if they get stuck such as “why is that?” or “how did that make you feel?”
If a child feels like they’re not being listened to, they may not come to you with their concerns as often, which is not something you want to happen especially when they hit their teenage years.
Letting kids know that all emotions are valid, helping them name their feelings, showing them how to respond to these feelings and listening to their concerns, they will develop emotional literacy skills that will benefit them for a lifetime.