It’s not always easy for adults to express what they’re really feeling, so we can’t always expect kids to openly let us in on their emotions. Sometimes, they might not even know how to express their feelings. Other times, they might not know exactly how to talk about them.
As a parent or caregiver, being able to have open conversations with your child about their feelings is important. It will help you be an advocate for them, give you some insight into their mental well-being, and show them you will always be there as a support system for them.
So, how you can help your child communicate their feelings in healthy and effective ways?
Let’s look at a few helpful tips.
1. Use Illustrations
If you have a younger child, using words isn’t always the easiest way to get them to communicate. You know their verbal limits and what they will/won’t understand.
Sometimes, it can be easier to use pictures as talking points or things they can point to that will let you know how they’re feeling. If you don’t quite understand what they mean by pointing out an illustration, asking simple yes or no questions and getting their response can give you a clearer idea of what they’re trying to convey.
2. Encourage and Praise Them
When your child openly expresses their feelings, make sure you encourage them. Let them know how proud you are that they’re sharing how they feel.
That kind of encouragement feels good, and it will make them more likely to continue to open up and share their feelings in the future.
On the other hand, don’t make them feel guilty or “punished” if they aren’t communicating the way you might like. Patience is incredibly important, especially with young children. Encouragement and force are two very different things.
3. Talk About Other People’s Feelings
One way to help your child get more in touch with their own emotions is to talk about what other people might be feeling. You can even make it into a game.
The next time you’re sitting in the park or walking through the store, have your child observe someone and ask them how they think that person feels in that moment. When they respond, you can start a discussion about why they think that way, and how they view certain emotions.
4. Be an Active Listener
The best thing you can do to help your child communicate their feelings is to be a strong listener.
That doesn’t just mean hearing what they have to say. It means truly listening, acknowledging, and accepting. It means letting them know it’s okay to feel however they feel. Be an empathetic listener so your child knows you understand what they’re trying to convey.
If they have a limited vocabulary, it might be easy for them to feel frustrated as they try to explain things. If you can show them they are seen and heard, they’ll stay calm, and likely be more willing to discuss their feelings more often.
The more you encourage discussions about feelings, the better. It should become a normal practice within your family—not something that only happens during times of stress or turmoil. When your child is able to express what they’re feeling on a regular basis, they’re more likely to know how to manage those feelings on their own as they get older.
If you’re still not sure how to help your child communicate, or you’re worried they might already be holding things back, it’s certainly not too late. Feel free to contact us at 916.740.6424 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to set up an appointment for child therapy.