Teaching Feeling the Emotions (Emotional Regulation for Kids)
Do you want to teach feeling emotions in a healthy way to your child? Do you struggle to feel your feelings that you have? You probably don’t have a clue where to start to learn emotional regulation for kids because you don’t have that for yourself.
In order help your child, you have to teach feeling emotions in a healthy way for yourself first. If you don’t learn how to do that then you are to blame for your child growing up without knowing how to have emotionally healthy relationships.
Nobody wants that for their child, but also most don’t know how to feel their feelings or have emotionally healthy relationships for themselves.
Now, don’t panic. You can teach feeling emotions in a healthy way to your child while you are learning how to do it yourself. If you are feeling panicked about your ability to teach your child, don’t worry.
If you’re reading this, then you are already ahead of most parents. You still have the ability to be an emotionally healthy leader for your child.
How to Teach Feeling and Being an Emotionally Healthy Leader
Now, most parents would say they want to teach feeling emotions in a healthy manner to their child, but very few consciously make an effort. The reason for that is that very few of us were taught how to do that when we were kids.
If you aren’t taught how to do something, chances are that you will struggle to do so. However, if you are reading this post, then again you are a step ahead of most parents. You are actively seeking help to teach feeling emotions in a healthy way to your child.
Now, how in the world do you do that? You and the experiences you have with your own feelings are actually the answers. In order to do this, you have to let go of some of the “stuff” you probably learned throughout your own childhood about feelings.
I’m sure you’ve heard the saying, “You need to feel your feelings.” Yes, it’s a cliché, but you have to do it in order to teach feeling healthy emotions to your child.
Most of us were taught that we are supposed to be strong. The problem with that is that the definition of strong we were given is wrong.
I won’t take up time in this post explaining that, but you should read this post on how Society’s Definition of Strong is Wrong. Just know that the definition of strong you were taught is the opposite of actually allowing yourself to feel your feelings.
Now, back to how you teach your children about understanding and expressing their feelings in a healthy manner. Children need an emotionally healthy leader and you’re the best one for that job!
Feel Your Feelings
Before I give you the steps, I want to let you know that it is NEVER too late to begin this process. Also, when you teach feeling emotions in a healthy manner, you are giving your child the ability to have emotionally healthy relationships for the rest of their lives.
I know I didn’t get that when I was a child. My guess is that you probably didn’t either. That’s sad, but you can change it for your child.
Obviously, it is best to start when your child is a toddler, but if you didn’t know how to do this then it is still ok. Regardless of the age of your child, you can still teach your child how to handle his or her feelings in a healthy manner.
Remember that most kids never get this at all. Due to that, most of us adults struggle with acknowledging and handling our own emotions in a healthy way.
The great thing about these steps is that you will also learn how to do this right alongside your child. Remember that I said it’s never too late to teach feeling emotions to your child in a healthy way. I’ll probably keep reminding you of that because I don’t want you to forget it!
Steps to Teaching Feeling Emotions in a Healthy Way:
- Start identifying and communicating your own emotions to your child. (Feel your feelings in front of your child in an appropriate way.)
- Explain to your child what you are going to do with that feeling that you’re experiencing.
- Name the feeling that you think your child is experiencing in the moment.
- Ask your child what he or she is going “to do with that feeling” and provide healthy options as activities.
- Allow the child to have time to do whatever activity they choose.
- Have a brief discussion about their experience after they have completed their activity.
I’ll go into more depth for each step now because you may be wondering exactly how you can do each step. Before I do that, I want to briefly cover something that is incredibly important when you begin to teach feeling emotions in a healthy way to your child.
DO NOT EVER SHAME YOUR CHILD FOR WHAT HE OR SHE IS FEELING. No matter what they tell you they are feeling, let them have that feeling and communicate it to you.
Just think about times that you have been told you shouldn’t be sad or angry about something. Think about what that did to you. Don’t do it to your kids! That is an important part of emotional regulation for kids.
So, how might Step One play out? If I have just had an exchange with somebody that left me feeling sad, I explain that to my 2-year old baby if he is around me while feeling sad.
Yes, I explain that to a toddler. I might say, “Mommy is feeling sad because somebody said something hurtful to me.” This is an important step to teach feeling emotions in a healthy way. I’m communicating what I am feeling, instead of “pushing” that sadness down.
If you’re often guilty of pushing your feelings down, then you need to read my post Anger is Often a Repressed Emotion-Sadness. It will help you understand your struggles with feeling your true feelings.
Another example is if my husband and I have had a disagreement and we are around our son, I explain what I’m feeling. I might say, “Mommy and Daddy had a disagreement. I’m feeling angry because we don’t understand each other’s side. Our disagreement has nothing to do with you and we love you so much.”
These examples lead me to Step Two. For the first example of my feeling sad, I will follow my communication of that with what I’m going “to do with that sadness.” This is key in demonstrating emotional regulation for kids.
I may say, “Mommy is going to listen to some music that I enjoy for ten minutes. When I come back, I’ll be feeling better and we can play.” I am showing him that sadness is ok and that I have to do something healthy with that sadness.
For the second example of feeling angry, I might say, “Because I’m feeling angry, I am going to sit outside for a few minutes to relax. When I come back feeling calmer, we can play.” You don’t need to over explain to a child, no matter how old they may be.
These first two steps teach your child that it is ok for you feel your feelings, no matter what that feeling may be. That teaches them that it is also ok for them to have any feeling they experience.
As a side note, please know that it is incredibly damaging to tell a child not to cry. That teaches them to suppress sadness.
If you’re reading this, then you probably know what that did to you as a child. We don’t get to determine whether or not an adult of child should or should not have a certain feeling.
Emotional Regulation for Kids
Now, let’s take a look at Step Three. It’s fairly simple. Here’s an example. My toddler is crying because I took a piece of orange out of his mouth that he has been chewing on for thirty minutes. He is about to take a nap. So, I don’t want him to choke on it.
Here’s how I respond to his crying. “You’re sad that Mommy took the orange out of your mouth. I know you really wanted to keep chewing it. You’re really sad that you can’t chew on it anymore.”
I am naming his emotion without shaming him for having it. For children who are older, it gets a little more interesting.
When you name an emotion you think they are having, but they believe it is wrong, they will correct you! This is another important step towards emotional regulation for kids.
If you say, “You are sad,” they will quickly dispute that if they feel it’s wrong. They may say, “I’m not sad. I’m mad.” Don’t try to change their minds! Let them communicate what they believe they are experiencing.
Step four may require more work on your end at the beginning of this process. As you learn how to do all of these steps, it will be much easier to do in the moment.
Expressing Feelings in a Healthy Way
Just remember that your goal is to teach feeling emotions in a healthy way and that is new for you and your child. As you begin implementing these steps, give the child two or three options to release whatever they are feeling.
One of those options could be lying on their bed and hitting or kicking the mattress. Many adults and children need a safe, physical release. Again, this is teaching emotional regulation for kids.
Another option could be screaming into a pillow or tearing up an egg container. The cardboard egg containers are good to use for this because they are not easy to tear.
Obviously, I don’t know your child and you do. So, choose whatever you think your child would be willing to do. You may have to try several things.
As Step five states, just allow your child the time he or she needs to do whatever activity he or she chose. The older your child is, the more time he or she may need to do whatever activity chosen.
When this is taking place, you may also need to remind yourself to feel your feelings and to do something healthy with those feelings. Trust me here, if you don’t do that then your child will observe you not doing what you’re trying to teach them.
That leads us to Step Six. After your child has done his or activity to release the energy from their emotion, have a conversation with them. This is NOT a time to discuss their “behavior” or what they did wrong.
You can do that later after a decent amount of time has passed. This is only for communicating their feelings and they action they took to release those feelings.
The conversation does not need to be long or detailed. You don’t want them to dread these conversations. This conversation is important when you teach feeling emotions in a healthy way for children.
Keep it simple. Here’s a sample of a conversation. “How are you feeling after doing that (whatever activity was chosen)? Do you feel like you need to do anything else? How can I help you next time you feel that (whatever feeling was named)?”
Always end the conversation with an expression of pride for your child being able to communicate his or her feeling and doing something healthy with it.
We all need praise whether we admit it or not. So, meet that need for your child because it is HUGE that a child is able to do this! This is emotional regulation for kids and something you probably never learned.
Patience in the Process
Before wrapping up this post, I want to make sure you understand that navigating this process is no easy task. It will take time to figure out the best way for you and your child to move through the steps.
So, be gentle and kind with yourself and most importantly, do the same with your child. Once you both get the hang of these steps, it will become natural.
Also, practice gratitude for yourself because just your willingness to do this is amazing. Think about how this process could have helped you when you were a child. Aren’t all of us parents trying to give our children things that we didn’t get, but needed as a child?
If you try this process and have any questions, please comment. I’m happy to help. I’d also love to hear success stories when you implement these steps!
Children deserve to have an emotionally healthy leader to learn how to have emotionally healthy relationships throughout life. You can be the one to ensure they get that.
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This site is only intended for people who are truly willing to look at themselves with an open mind and have the ability to truly be vulnerable with themselves and others. Please understand that this site is in NO WAY THERAPEUTIC ADVICE. However, this site can be very beneficial in learning the causes of your Not Good Enough Stuff. This site is not intended to provide or replace medical or psychiatric treatment. Mary Beth HIGHLY RECOMMENDS finding a licensed therapist to help you process the information from this site and all that you learn about yourself. Visit Psychology Today to find a licensed therapist in your area.