Making sense of our children's emotions and feelings!
I think our Harry has about 10 different zillion billion emotions everyday poor chap! Everything that we do and every thought that we have comes with a feeling and boy doesn't Harry show it! Some of his thoughts are fantastic and the subsequent feelings he gets are good ones but some of his other thoughts, the not very nice ones, make him feel angry, sad and anxious. Some of Harry's feelings are weak and can pass through him without further thought but some of his other feelings, often the negative ones, can be strong and can hang around for a while.
Children have lots of different thoughts and subsequently lots of different emotions and feelings and as a parent it is often quite hard to navigate them well. Therefore I created my Emotion and Feelings Cards to help parents help their children figure out and recognise their differing thoughts and feelings and give parents and their children some ideas on how to manage them.
Be empathetic, reassure and teach...
The three key things that have helped me to help Harry is that when we are dealing with his intense emotions and feelings is to be empathetic towards him and to reassure him. I've noticed that if I mirror Harry's emotions and feelings this often results in more upset so I try and approach each situation with calmness - not always easy, but I try.
When we feel something, we choose what to do about that feeling and often that is where we need to give them the most support - to make the right choices about how they deal with them.
Name their emotions and feelings..
One trick I have learnt with Harry to help him cope with his emotions is when I am comforting him, I name his feelings and his emotions that I am seeing, for example, ‘you look worried Harry’ - this labelling can help Harry feel that his emotion is being recognised and this can be the first step in helping them.
So below, I explore 5 of the typical feelings from my 'Emotions and Feelings Cards' box and how you might help your child deal with them:
When they get angry...
Talk to your child about how they feel when they are angry. Feeling angry or cross can feel quite horrible, but explain to them that everyone gets angry and it is a common emotion. Here are some things they can do to help:
- Hit a pillow, but not too hard!
- Go for a walk in the garden and get some fresh air.
- Count to 10 and walk away from the situation to calm down.
- Close your eyes and take some deep, slow breaths.
- Draw lots of clouds to help the anger float away
When they feel jealous...
Feeling jealous or envious happens when we want what someone else has or we feel that someone wants to be with another person more than they want to be with us. You should listen and talk to your child’s concerns and reasons as to why they are feeling jealous. Try and turn their negative feelings into a positive feeling and tackle the situation with compassion, no matter how trivial you may think it is. Here are some ideas they can do to help:
- Find someone you love being with and ask them to say something nice to you.
- Practice giving other people praise and compliments when they do things well.
- Smile for exactly one minute!
- Think of yourself as lucky - there are always people who are worse off than you.
When they feel anxious...
Talk to your child about why they are feeling anxious and worried. You can reassure them that you understand how they feel and that these anxious feelings they have will come and go, and not last forever. Here are some things they can do to help:
- Distraction can be an effective technique to use. Go outside and do an activity or play a game with them such as ‘think of an animal for every letter of the alphabet’
- Create a relaxation box - fill the box with toys, activities or items that you know will help your child to relax and feel calm.
- Use affirmations - reading these out loud can really help to improve your child’s mood and ability to talk positively.
- Breath! Taking deep breaths in through the nose and out (either through the nose or mouth), for example in for 4 and out for 8, can help your child to feel calmer.
When they feel scared...
People feel scared when they are in danger or when they are unsure about doing something that they have not done before. Help your child talk about what it is that is frightening them. Children often know what they are afraid of, but they find it hard to explain their fears in words, so you need to validate them and move on with reassurance. Here are some things they could do:
- Say very clearly that you feel scared.
- Think into the future when the scary thing will be over and you are no longer scared.
- Imagine the thing that is scaring you being tiny enough to fit in your hand.
- Shut your eyes tight and breath deeply to feel more calm.
When they feel embarrassed...
You feel embarrassed when you do something that you think made you look silly or stupid. Being embarrassed can make children go bright red in the face and is therefore a difficult emotion to hide. You can tell your child about a situation that has made you feel embarrassed in the past and make sure you take their embarrassment seriously. We can’t always protect our children from embarrassment, but we can help them to build resilience and the confidence that they need to help them deal with it in a healthy way. Here are a few ideas:
- Laugh loudly at yourself and smile at how silly you have been.
- Learn from what you did so that you don’t do it again.
- Remember that everyone will soon forget what has happened!
- Remember that absolutely everyone gets embarrassed at some point, even adults and teachers!
I hope this has helped you to recognise some common feelings and emotions that your children maybe going through, and given you some ideas on how to deal with them. Speaking through these ideas with them will help them to cope with the emotions and get to know their feelings better. If you are interested in my Emotions and Feelings cards, you can order them here. I also have Anxiety help cards, which include more in depth ideas to help you help your child when they are feeling worried.