Many kids feel afraid or worried about expressing their feelings, especially when they feel anger or anxiety. If your child fears being judged or lectured, they might be reluctant to share their feelings and problems. Many children will internalize their worries, suffer from sleepless nights, endure knots in their tummies, and even have a hard time focusing in school.
Help children label their feelings. Describing their feelings (use a feeling wheel: jealousy, anger, sadness, fear, worry, disgust, shock, bored, hurt, embarrassed, etc.) without judgment. Once children understand that it is perfectly normal to experience negative feelings, they will be more accepting and willing to process their emotions. When kids learn that it is safe to share their feelings, they will develop empathy and become supportive adults.
Knowing it’s safe to express their feelings without fear helps kids perform better in school (fewer worries) and engage in healthy relationships. Pay attention to cues your kids give—and be cautious when asking questions that may cause discomfort. Statements like: “You seem sad today” may prompt your child to open up with answers like: “Yeah, someone was mean to me” or “I failed a test today.” Your role as a parent is to listen and empathize rather than give advice. Many children crave the attention of feeling heard, and empathy is a gift they will treasure.
As parents, we don’t want to convey the idea that we are annoyed when they share their negative feelings. Avoid phrases like “Stop that whining, there’s always something wrong with you” or” Don’t you dare lose your temper with me.” These phrases lead to your child forming a belief that they are not worthy of your attention. Low self-esteem and a whole set of problems can result in possible mental health issues if children do not feel worthy.