What do we teach our children about their emotions?

As parents we want our children to be happy. What do we do and say when they are feeling angry, scared or sad? How often do we hear, or say to our children, “oh don’t worry about it, just focus on the positive” or “don’t feel upset about that, it is not so bad”. While our intention is to make them feel better, could we be teaching them to dismiss their emotions? Are we teaching them that they shouldn’t have “negative” emotions? How do we help them through these negative emotions? The key is not about positive thinking or denial of negative emotions; the key is about using their “negative” emotions as action signals that a change is necessary.

The steps to do this are:

  1. Ask them what they are feeling?
  2. Acknowledge and appreciate their feeling. I can see you are really feeling…….
  3. I wonder what this feeling is trying to tell you.
  4. What is making you feel that way?
  5. Do you need to change your perception or your action?
  6. What action can you take to get what you want?

For example:

Fear is a signal to get prepared. We want our children to develop a way to assess their fear so that if they are in a potentially dangerous situation they know how to act on their feeling. This starts in small ways each time they feel afraid. Your child might be afraid to approach a new friend at school. Acknowledge the fear. Ask them what they are afraid of? What do they think the new friend would say? What could they reply? What do they want to say to the friend? By asking these questions you are helping them to prepare for the possible outcome. Usually when we are feeling more prepared we are no longer afraid. Sometimes children assume that they will get a bad response and we can gently guide them to a new perception and possibility that they may get a good response.

Our role as parents is to facilitate our children’s emotional growth, encourage them to try new things all the time and assess their feedback, to develop strategies to create the lives they want. As they increase their awareness of how they feel and what they can do about it they are building a system within them that will ensure their genuine happiness.

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