Every parent wants to raise their children to be resilient, responsible and respectful.
Parents all have great intentions to do ‘what’s best’ for their children, but how to do this and get it ‘right’ is not always easy.
There’s so many facets to parenting and often juggling the day-to-day requirements leaves little time for bigger picture planning. As a Psychologist and mother, I believe that there is one invaluable thing that all parents can incorporate into their daily routines, that will really help in meeting their parenting goals and setting their children up for success, long-term:
Teaching children to understand and manage their feelings and emotions.
The good news is that there’s some really simple and straight forward ways to do this. From my personal and professional experience, I have outlined below the strategies that I have found to be most effective:
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Talk about it
Use feelings in your every day discussions with them. Comments such as “it makes me really happy when you…” or “it makes me angry when…” helps them to build their vocabulary. Likewise, empathising with their emotions and naming them, “you seem really sad, what happened?” also helps them to understand and name their feelings.
Whether it’s in the car or around the dinner table, it’s also a great idea to pick different feelings and all take turns of explaining when you have felt like that or what things make you feel certain ways.
Books and reading
There are so many books that teach children about feelings and emotions. Read with your child and ask questions about how particular characters in the story may be feeling, times when they have felt like that and don’t be afraid to share your own (age appropriate) experiences too.
This can be done with children of all ages and only the complexity of the questions would need to change. For example, a toddler might say “it makes me happy when I play with my toys” where as older children could discuss feeling nervous, worried, scared, frightened, etc.
Set an example
At times, we hold our children to a higher standard than we can meet ourselves. Whilst this might sound outrageous, think about it this way, have you ever gotten so angry at a situation you have lashed out or said something you later regretted? Have you ever yelled or screamed at your children to stop yelling or screaming? Of course, this is ok and we all have our moments, however it’s important to remember that our children have so much less experience and understanding of their feelings and emotions, that they’re going to have these outbursts/tantrums/meltdowns too.
As parents, of course we can’t be perfect, but we can use these times as an opportunity to teach. Talk to children (even if it’s after the fact, once you’ve calmed down) and explain that “Mum was really angry, and I’m sorry I yelled, next time I will try to take a deep breath to calm down and then speak to you about what upset me”. You can then ask the same of your child when they become upset, using deep breaths or some time to themselves, to avoid the big outbursts.
Incorporating some or all of these things into your daily routine can only help build your child’s social and emotional learning whilst also fostering positive relationships and remember, it’s never too early or too late to start!
How do you talk to your little ones about feelings? Share with us in the comments.