Teaching our children about feelings helps them to create a sense of self. Helping a child to discover themselves and the world around them, while building strength and confidence, teaches the child how to live in society with success. Kathy Eugster offers insight on this subject here on this page.
There are basic steps coParents can take, while teaching the importance of feelings.
Help Children Identify Feelings
Help your child notice different feelings by naming various feelings she or others may experience. Explain how people show their feelings (through faces, bodies, words) and that showing your feelings is an important way for others to understand how you are feeling. Help your child notice how different feelings “feel” in his or her own body; for example tight hands, butterflies in stomach, etc.
Provide Opportunities for Communicating About Feelings
It is helpful for children to talk about their feelings. However, talking about feelings is not easy for children, especially when they are asked directly. It is important for parents to watch and listen carefully for the times when a child does express feelings, either directly through words or indirectly through behaviors. At these times, you can help your child by acknowledging and accepting their feelings by simply reflecting them back to them and refraining from providing advice or asking questions. When a child’s feelings are criticized, disapproved of, or not accepted by a parent, his internal sense of self is weakened.
Teach Relaxation Skills
Learning relaxation skills will help children feel better when they are anxious, worried or scared. It will also help them learn that they have some control over their own bodies rather than being controlled by their anxiety.
One way to help your child relax is to encourage slow, deep breathing. You can help your child practice this by getting her to imagine slowly blowing bubbles. Another way to relax is to ask her to alternately tense and relax her muscles. Additionally, some of the soothing and comforting strategies outlined above work very well to relax children.
You can also help your child use his imagination to relax. Help your child to imagine a safe and relaxing place and to notice the good relaxing feelings in his body. Or, have him imagine a container (such as a big box) to put his worries in so they are not running wild in his mind and bothering him when he needs or wants to be doing other things.
Provide Soothing and Comforting Strategies
Comforting and soothing a child are very helpful strategies that parents can use in relieving anxiety. These strategies communicate to the child that he or she is safe and cared for. Verbal reassurances of safety and love, rocking, cuddling, holding, massage, singing, and telling stories are just some of the soothing and comforting strategies that parents can use. Parents may be surprised to realize that children may sometimes need comforting and soothing that seems to the parent to be too “babyish” for the child’s age. However, anxious children do need extra soothing experiences that relax and relieve the tension in their bodies.
Encourage “Feeling Good” Activities
When children are anxious, encourage them to engage in activities they enjoy such as playing with a favorite toy, doing a fun art or craft activity, doing something active outside, playing a game, reading a book, or playing with friends. Children will often need the assistance and attention of their parents to engage in these fun activities if they are anxious.
There are many children’s books available that deal specifically with anxiety, fears and worries. These books can be very helpful for children as the stories will often model various ways of coping with fears and anxiety. When searching for books, use keywords such as anxiety, worry, fear, scary, scared, shy, etc.
Author Kathy Eugster, MA, RCC, CPT-S, is a Registered Clinical Counsellor and a Certified Play Therapist – Supervisor. For the past sixteen years she has run a private counselling practice seeing children three to twelve years old and their parents for a variety of emotional and behavioral problems, including issues related to past trauma. Kathy was the recipient of the 2013 Monica Herbert Award for contributing to the field of play therapy in Canada. She serves on the Board of Directors for the Canadian Association for Child and Play Therapy. Kathy is the author of numerous articles on child and parent relationships, which are available on her website. She publishes an on-line newsletter, Parent-Child Connections, on a regular basis. http://www.kathyeugster.com