Helping children understand and manage their emotions is an important aspect of their overall development and well-being. As a parent/carer, you play a crucial role in supporting your child's emotional growth. This isn’t always an easy process, especially when we are already navigating our own internal world and the general stressors in our daily lives. This is why, we’ve put together a guide to support you in this process. Here are 10 ways to help children understand and manage their emotions effectively:
1. Foster an open and supportive environment
Create a safe and non-judgmental space where you child feels comfortable expressing their emotions. Encourage them to talk about their feelings and let them know that it's okay to experience a wide range of emotions. We’re often told that feelings such as anger or jealousy are bad but in actual fact they are not bad, they are very normal. Allowing children to feel their feelings without feeling guilty is a healthy way to help them process their big feelings when they surface. Rather than suppressing their feelings, which will eventually make things worse, talk about it with them in a safe and non-judgemental space.
2. Teach emotional vocabulary
In order for your child to express how they are feeling to you, they need to be taught emotional vocabulary. Help your child identify and label different emotions. Use simple and age-appropriate language to describe feelings such as happy, sad, angry, scared, and excited. When a child is able to understand and communicate their emotions effectively, they are more likely to get their needs met by you effectively.
3. Be an emotional role model
Children learn a great deal by observing the adults around them. Show them the healthy ways you express and manage your own emotions. When you experience strong emotions, model appropriate coping strategies like taking deep breaths, talking about your feelings, apologising when you’re in the wrong or taking a break to calm down. It’s important for children to see that it’s okay to have bad days as we are all human.
4. Validate their emotions
Let your child know that their feelings are valid and understandable. Avoid dismissing or belittling their emotions. Instead, offer empathy and understanding to help them feel heard and supported. Though we may not always understand their perspective, we must remind ourselves that for them, whatever they are feeling is very real for them.
5. Teach coping strategies
Help your child develop healthy ways to manage their emotions. Teach them techniques such as deep breathing exercises, counting to ten, going for a walk, journaling, or engaging in a favourite activity. Encourage them to choose strategies that work best for them. It’s important to remember that we must teach children these coping techniques when they are calm rather than when they are in the depths of their emotional turmoil. When they are calm, they are more receptive to learning these strategies so that they can put them to use when they most need them.
6. Problem-solving skills
Teach your child problem-solving skills to deal with emotional challenges. Help them identify the problem, brainstorm possible solutions, evaluate the pros and cons, and choose the best course of action. This empowers them to take control of their emotions and find constructive solutions.
7. Encourage self-reflection
Help your child to reflect on their emotions and the triggers that lead to them. Encourage them to think about why they feel a certain way and how their actions affect others. This self-awareness helps build emotional intelligence and empathy.
8. Set limits and boundaries
While it's important to validate your child’s emotions, it's equally important to establish appropriate limits and boundaries for behaviour. Teach them that it's okay to feel angry or upset but not okay to hurt themselves or others. Help them understand the consequences of their actions and guide them towards positive choices.
9. Encourage positive relationships
Social connections are crucial for emotional well-being. Support your child in building healthy relationships with friends, family, and supportive peers. Encourage empathy, kindness, and active listening skills to help them navigate social interactions successfully.
10. Seek professional help if needed
If your child consistently struggles with managing their emotions or if their emotional challenges significantly impact their daily life, consider seeking support from a mental health professional. They can provide specialised guidance and interventions tailored to your child's needs.
Remember, helping children understand and manage their emotions is an ongoing process. Be patient with them (and yourself), offer consistent support, and celebrate their progress along the way.