“Top 7 Ways to Respond When Your Child Shares Feelings”
One of the most important skills for a child’s emotional healing is the ability to identify and express emotion. When a child can communicate their internal experience, he or she creates the foundation to alleviate past loss, abandonment, or trauma. When the child connects to caregivers through sensitive sharing, the parent simultaneously becomes better equipped to understand the child’s joy, sorrow, fear, and frustration.
Some children easily share thoughts and feelings while others quietly leave the room or become “invisible” when anyone asks about feelings. Whatever example describes your child, your response can either keep the conversation going or shut it down.
There are times when every parent thinks, “What do I say back to my child?” or “How do I encourage my child to talk to me?” Use the following strategies to guide you:
- Praise your child’s feeling comments- When your child tells you his or her emotions, express your appreciation to reinforce their behavior. Say, “Thanks for sharing,” “I’m glad you told me,” or “I like it when you tell me how you feel.”
- Mirror your child’s remarks– As you listen, summarize your child’s statement to ensure you heard the words correctly and to show the importance of his or her comments. Be careful not to simply repeat your child’s exact words as most kids consider this practice to be irritating!
- Help your child feel heard and understood– When a child feels heard and understood they are more likely to share and to feel connected to their caregivers. Convey that you are listening and understand your child’s point of view through sentence starters: “It makes sense to me . . .,” “I understand . . .,” and “It sounds like you’re saying . . .”
- “Is there more?” When you are listening to your child’s communicate about the situation and how they feel use this question, “Is there more you want to tell me?” You have heard everything they need to say when their answer is, “No.”
- Check on your child’s needs or wants- After your child has explained his or her feelings, they may need further help or reassurance from you. At this time ask, “Is there anything you need or want from me?” “What can I do to make this situation better for you?” Your child may need you to intervene on their behalf, give them a hug, or spend time alone with you.
- Differentiate between thoughts and feelings– Help your child to visually delineate between thoughts and feelings through their location in the body. Explain feelings reside in their heart while thoughts are located in their head. For example, “Can you tell me about the feelings in your heart?” or “What are the thoughts in your head?”
- Do not jump in to fix the problem- Understandably, most parents can not stand to see their child in pain, and we want to fix it as soon as possible. But, by overlooking your child’s emotions leaves your child feeling alone and misunderstood. Before you work on fixing the difficulty, listen carefully with open ears!
One of our Kinship Center social workers recommended this interesting blog post by Kentucky therapist Carol Lozier…to follow her blog, click here.
Ron Raves: A great company and great advice…yes, I am biased because I work here 🙂