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September 27, 2018

How to Respond to Children's Feelings for Good Mental Health

Validation of feelings is an essential component of positive mental health for both children and adults, and there is nothing more validating than someone taking the time to reflect “I hear what you are saying, you seem upset because… Let’s see how we can help”. 

So what can parents do to help their children? Sometimes parents feel uncomfortable when their kids experience “negative” or difficult emotions – sadness, frustration, anger. They feel a strong desire to save them from these feelings and bring them back to happiness again.

Instead of rescuing kids, we can empower them! We need to let children feel their feelings!

This is not easy. It often takes time for parents and caregivers to see that they can still be loving and supportive without giving in or rescuing a child from a difficult emotion.

HOW TO HELP YOUR CHILD FEEL THEIR FEELINGS:

Identify the feeling: Imagine your daughter is lying on the floor of her room sobbing. She says that she can’t move because she is so tired. She is demanding that you pick out her clothes for the day. Take this opportunity to explain the feeling she is experiencing is called, “exhausted.”

Empathize with their struggle:  Feeling big feelings can be overwhelming. Both parent and child may feel the urge to just “make it go away!” Children can learn that even strong feelings will pass. Parents can show support for their struggle by saying, “Trying a new skill can be frustrating!” or “Sometimes it takes a while to feel calm again.”

Brainstorm alternative solutions: Managing big feelings can be hard work! Prepare ahead of time by making a list of ways to manage big feelings. Create a cool-down spot, practice calming skills, or make a plan. Talk with children about their ideas for managing big feelings, ask for input and put it into practice. 

Look Beyond the Behaviour: Kids aren’t going to like feeling their big feelings. They liked being rescued! Parents may notice an increase in behaviours at first. They may be tempted to give in or try to get the big feelings to stop. Instead, provide comfort, encouragement, and empathy as they feel the feeling. 

Find a new way to communicate: Whining or demanding may have allowed a child to avoid uncomfortable feelings in the past. But it's possible to teach a child a different way to get their needs met. For example, asking: “Can you think of a different way to ask me for help? 

Here at Discovery Point daycare, we approach each child with empathy, and provide a child care environment where emotions are nurtured as children learn and grow. 

If you have any concerns or questions, we’re here to help! 

Discovery Point Nursery and Academy - best child care in Woodbridge Vaughan. 


Article sources: Malie Coyne, Nicole Schwarz
Photo: imperfectfamilies.com