Make a Habit of Talking With Kids About How They Feel

We have posted before about how important it is for kids to be able to recognize emotions in themselves and other people. Among other things, it helps them to:

  • Get along with other people
  • Manage their own emotions better
  • Be more resilient

It is also important for kids to be able to talk about their feelings to their parents or other caregivers. This can be a healthy way to deal with big emotions (vs acting out or turning feelings inside). And it can be very important as kids get older because during the preteen and teen years, the changes taking place in kids’ brains and bodies can make emotions feel particularly intense. Being able to reach out to trusted adults to help when emotions seem overwhelming increases the chances that a kid will be able to cope with their feelings in positive ways. The earlier you start talking with your child about their feelings, the more likely that this will become a habit that will last through their teens and into adulthood.

It is pretty common for parents to think that talking to kids about their feelings might be awkward or “make things worse”. But there are actually several fun ways to get into the habit of sharing feelings with your kid. Two important things to remember are:

  • Talk about feelings regularly – this will get you and your kid into the habit of discussing emotions
  • Talk about feelings even when they are not “big” – if you can discuss everyday feelings, it will be easier to also talk about “big” emotions when they come up

Here are some ways to get into the habit of talking to your child about feelings. With a few tweaks, these can work for kids of any age, preschool to teen.

1) How’s Your Weather?: This can be a fun, quick way to find out how things are going for your child. Ask them “If your mood were the weather what would it look like?”. Kids could answer “sunny” if they feel happy or they might say “thunderstorms” if they are angry. You can go deeper by asking them how they are going to prepare for this weather “forecast”. For example, if there will be thunderstorms, ask them what they could do to help make these less intense, or give them suggestions, such as deep breathing.

2) Feelings chart: This starts out as a visual way for your kid to show how they are feeling that might be easier for kids who don’t have all the words for their emotions yet. Then you can ask questions like “What happened to make you feel [emotion from feeling chart] today?”

3) Reflect your kid’s feelings: Another way to start a kid talking about feelings might be to say “You look frustrated. Do I have that right?” You will need to be prepared with ways to keep a conversation going if they give you a one word answer, such as “Hmmm. Can you tell me how you are feeling?” if you get a “no” or “What is making you feel that way?” if you are correct.

4) Highs and Lows: Ask your kid to tell you the part of their day that made them feel the best and then the part of the day that wasn’t so good. Then you can follow up with more questions.

5) Model talking about your feelings: Tell your kid how you are feeling, how your day went, or what makes you feel a certain way. They will learn how to talk about feelings and may feel more willing to share about their own.

These are just a few ideas to get the conversations about feeling started. Like a lot of other skills, talking about emotions gets easier with practice. And it is a habit that will help set your kids up for positive relationships, social support and better mental health.

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Image: © Vadimgozhda |


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