As a parent, you probably have experienced a myriad of emotions when engaging with your child. You probably have also been on the opposite side, witnessing your child experience a wide range of emotions, as well. If your child is older, you may remember the two-year-old stage when your kid would just flop themselves on the floor and scream for a few minutes. However, what happens after a child is better able to understand what they are feeling beyond a two-year-old level? Parents can feel stuck at times because they know which emotion is being expressed from their kid, and the child may not understand it or the impact that it has on those around them.
Additionally, parents may not feel comfortable or able to discuss feelings openly with their child. This may be for a variety of reasons from not having experience in talking about them when they themselves were a child, to simply not knowing how to approach a ten-year-old that acts out physically when experiencing anger. It may even be that the parent doesn’t know what they personally are feeling in a variety of situations. A parent that can push past the uncomfortableness in discussing emotions is doing a great service for their child in a variety of ways, but here are a few reasons that I like the best.
-Your child can gain a better sense of emotional intelligence. Quite simply defined, emotional intelligence is the ability to have awareness, control, and express emotions. This type of intelligence is crucial for children to master to build relationships at home, with their peers, and even into adulthood for their future careers. A person that has high emotional intelligence will feel more able to handle conflicts in their relationships and have greater empathy for what others are experiencing. By talking about feelings with your kid, you are building their awareness of the emotions and how they are currently being expressed.
-Your kid can feel more comfortable in approaching you when they are feeling a strong emotion. Sometimes, a son or daughter may not think that mom or dad wants to hear that they are feeling sad, angry, or hurt. There may even be an unspoken message sent that strong emotions are better kept to yourself being passed along. When you respond positively to your child telling you something that is being experienced that is hard for them, they feel more able to repeat the action in the future. This skill will be beneficial as your child grows and encounters new feelings and experiences that you would like them to share with you.
-You and your child can have a stronger bond. By letting your daughter know that you too have experienced sadness, you are letting her know that you can relate and understand where she is coming from. Your son will appreciate that his father knows what it is like to feel anxious when taking a test or raising their hand in class. This isn’t to say that your experience of feeling angry is the same as your child because we do feel them individually. Your role is more to help them see that even though you may not express your feelings overtly, you still have had that feeling at some point. You can have a connection in your shared feeling.
A final consideration to make here is to ensure that you are talking about feelings on an appropriate level. It can be overwhelming for a child to have a parent unload some heavy experiences on them if they are not mature enough to understand it. It’s probably best to keep conflicting emotions around experiences like divorce or other past difficulties to yourself. Keeping things simple like, “I felt mad today and my face felt hot,” may be just enough for a young child. The practice of talking to your kids about emotions does not have to be extremely in depth. Simply keeping the skill in your mind can prove helpful to use when it is needed.
Your son or daughter may thank you someday in helping them grow in their emotional development. I think that parents can help their children better manage emotions by helping them understand their function and personal expression of them. The more practice a child has in this practice, the more able they will be to handle stronger ones as they happen.