Have you noticed your child is reluctant to share their feelings or maybe you want to stay ahead and raise children who are comfortable using their voices – either way, creating a safe place for children to express themselves is the first step in continued success in children processing emotions with safe adults. To start, work with children from infancy in defining emotions. We are not born understanding sad is sad or happy is happy. Children do not understand the tightness in their chest can be related to anxiety – you must teach them! When you work with children in understanding how to express emotions, they are more likely to share with you and lean into their feelings.
As you work, talk with your child use phrases such as, “I see you are having a big feeling right now. Can you tell me what it is you are feeling?” If the tantrum continues, “Are you frustrated? Did Sally take your toy and that made you mad?” When you witness the incident to cause the feeling – feel free to tell your kiddo what you saw. You are actively showing them it is okay to be frustrated – but more importantly, it’s okay to share with a trusted adult why you are.
Keep working through scenarios while also pointing out on positive interactions. Happy is an emotion. Often parents end up doing their course work in their children feeling negative emotions however, you get what you focus on. Teaching children to also stop and “smell the roses” indeed guides them to living a mindful life! When children are mindful of their surroundings, the good, the bad, and the ugly, they will engage with a higher level of expressing themselves.
Live by example. Children observe so much more than we give them credit for. Don’t feel as though you need to hide your feelings. If you are sad, say so. Better yet, offer an example as to why you have tears flowing down your face. Naturally, this needs to be kid appropriate – but when they see you sharing with them in turn, they will share with you. Make sure to include the moments that are making you happy. “Oh Johnny, I just love with you pick me flowers. They make me so happy.”
Overall, the big component is in the daily conversations you are having with your kiddo. You can also create a “calm down” space for your kids – soft pillows, muted wall colors, a favorite stuffy – but at the end of the day the success in getting your children to feel comfortable to share with you begins with the language and parental reactions around their moods. Love them through it, sit in their muck with them, and keep encouraging descriptive words around their emotions.