Posted 04/11/2019 3:00:00 PM by Tanya Colaco

Knowing what to do with the emotions we feel in daily life can be tough. It can be a challenge for all of us, but a particularly unique one for kids. As parents, caregivers and friends, we can all help kids feel their emotions, identify them and manage them so they learn how to have a healthy emotional life––one that helps them reach their potential rather than hold them back from growing up strong and whole.

Here are a few tips to help you raise emotionally healthy kids:

1. Be a good role model: Kids learn from the adults they look up to. Work on modelling your own good emotional health by welcoming your emotions––not pushing them away––talking about how you feel with people you trust, processing your emotions, and then choosing actions that benefit you and the people around you as a result of healthy emotional management. When we hide our emotions, or keep them inside, we teach our kids that emotions aren't something we share or discuss. By naming them, talking about them and giving yourself the chance to process, you teach your kids that emotions are a positive part of a full life.

2. Name the emotion: Just like adults, kids are hit with emotions out of the blue. You don’t know when or how you might feel sometimes. So knowing what emotions are, the names they have and how they feel helps kids understand the emotional world. Starting a conversation with the question, “How do you feel?” can make it tough for kids to know what to say. Luckily, there are some useful books available to help: “The Way I Feel” by Janan Cain and “Glad Monster, Sad Monster” by Ed Emberley and Anne Miranda are a few of many available options.

3. Ask: Don’t be scared to ask ‘feeling’ questions. When kids return from school and they report the day’s events, don’t be scared to say, “how did that make you feel?” and “why do you think you felt that way?” Even if they report only positive things from the day, asking questions about how various events made them feel can help normalize emotions as a healthy part of life.

4. Learn when to step in and when to give space: Since kids are still developing, they often need help identifying emotions and knowing how to safely express them. When your child is feeling an emotion, stop what you are doing and sit down with them for a chat. Give them the chance to talk, cry, get angry or express whatever they may be feeling. Then help them walk through the emotion by describing how it feels, and discuss what they can do about it. It’s a great opportunity to demonstrate that all emotions are inherently good, but not all resulting actions can be helpful. Take a moment to discuss a healthy next step.

Got a tip worth sharing with other parents trying to talk to their kids about emotions? Tweet us @GreaterVanYMCA

About Tanya Colaco

Tanya is the Digital Communications and Marketing Coordinator at the YMCA of Greater Vancouver. She’s an avid foodie, enjoys learning new things and loves to travel. Tanya is also an “animal person” and can never resist petting any cat or dog that crosses her path!

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