Children’s feelings are important! For example, if a child feels sad, it means that something in their life is causing them to feel sad.
Ignoring their feelings would be like ignoring the fact that their house is on fire. If you ignore it, it will only get worse. That said, it is important to teach children that feelings are just feelings, and sometimes our feelings will be strong and scary, but they can manage their feelings.
You can do this by helping children recognize the difference between thinking and feeling. Here are several tips to help you teach children about feelings and thinking.
Help children distinguish between what they think and what they feel.
Children often confuse what they think with what they feel. For example, if a child thinks that they are bad, they will feel bad. You can help your child be aware of the difference between what they think and what they feel by asking them what they are thinking and what they are feeling at the same time.
Tell your child, “I see that you are frowning and that your hands are in fists. Tell me what you are thinking about and what you are feeling.” If your child responds, “I am thinking that I am bad and I am feeling sad,” help him understand the difference between thinking and feeling. Tell him that it is OK to feel sad but that the feeling doesn’t mean that he is bad.
Help children recognize that feelings come and go.
When children feel sad, they often believe that they will feel sad forever. Help your child recognize that feelings come and go. Ask your child, “What are you feeling right now?”
If your child responds, “I am feeling sad,” you can say, “I see you are feeling sad. What do you think will happen to your feeling of sadness?”
Help children understand that they can manage their feelings.
Children often believe that there is nothing they can do to make their feelings go away. They feel that they have no control over their feelings. You can help your child realize that he controls his feelings by teaching him about the brain and emotions.
Tell your child, “When you feel angry, your brain sends a signal to make your body feel how you are feeling. You can help yourself feel better by taking some deep breaths and thinking about something that makes you feel good.”
Help children recognize that their feelings are valid but need to find ways to deal with them.
Your child’s feelings are valid, but that doesn’t mean acting on his feelings is always the best way to deal with them.
When your child is sad, you can say, “I hear that you are feeling sad. Tell me what you are thinking and feeling.”
If your child responds, “I am feeling sad and I am thinking that I can’t stand it anymore,” you can say, “I hear you are feeling sad. You are thinking that you can’t stand it anymore. What can you do to feel better?”