Whenever a child is going through a hard time, their emotions can quickly get out of control. Teaching your child how to process and talk about what they’re going through is a helpful skill that will serve them well, both in their childhood and later in life. Here are some tips that may help your children express their feelings in healthy ways.
Set up an Emotion Journal for Them
Journals aren’t just for big kids, little ones can benefit from putting pen (or marker) to paper as well. Obviously, young children are unable to write yet, but you can give them a sketch journal and encourage them to draw pictures. They can choose colors that match how they feel. For example, they might choose red if they’re angry and yellow when they feel happy. They can also draw pictures of their face, illustrating how they feel inside.
It might also be helpful to sit down with your child each day and ask if they would like to talk about what they drew. Your child may be content to simply express their emotions on paper, but depending on how much they share with you, they may want to talk about their pictures with you as well.
Ask Your Child Questions Other Than “How Are You?”
Why is it so hard to ask our children more complex questions than “how are you?” Perhaps we have become so busy that we don’t have time to invest in deeper conversations with our kids. We ask a quick, “How was your day?” on the drive home from school and we call it good enough. But our children need us to ask them more than that! If you’re not sure where to start, the blog “Her View From Home” shared a helpful list of questions you can ask instead, to help your children express their feelings. The list includes questions like:
- What made you feel happy?
- What made you feel proud?
- What made you feel loved?
- What made you smile today?
- Can you tell me an example of kindness you saw/showed?
- Was there an example of unkindness? How did you respond?
- Did you ever feel unsafe?
- Does everyone have a friend at recess?
- What was the best thing that happened today?
- What was your least favorite part of the day?
- What was the hardest rule to follow today?
- What are you looking forward to tomorrow?
Remember That Sometimes Tantrums Stem From Hunger and Tiredness
We’ve all been there. The playdate starts out great. Our child starts off in a good mood, playing sweetly with their friend. All is well. Then something shifts. Your child starts to snatch toys from the other kids. They pout when you tell them to stop trying to eat the chalk. They throw a fit when it’s time to leave. What happened to your sweet child? They were playing so well 20 minutes ago! While there may be other factors at play, they’re probably just hungry, tired, or both.
Always ask “Is my child hungry/tired?” before blaming “big feelings” for their outbursts. Sometimes kids get angry and lash out because their bellies are empty or because they woke up too early! Teach them to communicate what they need when they start losing control. Feelings of hunger and tiredness shouldn’t be downplayed/minimized. They are valid and just as important as emotions like sadness, loneliness, or anger.