How to Help Children Express Themselves
It’s easy for us grown-ups to forget how tough it is to be a child. But being a child is more than just learning how to count and spell. They’re learning who they are and how to deal with the messy world of emotions. Children who miss out on those lessons tend to have trouble developing stable relationships and coping with difficult situations. That’s why it’s so important for grown-ups to know how to help children express themselves.
Help Kids Identify Their Feelings
Our emotions are our body’s way of alerting us to our needs. Sadness may signal a need for comfort while anger may indicate that children need to address hurt feelings or pain. A child who does not understand what they’re feeling won’t be able to identify their need and won’t know how to deal with the feeling. They would just know that they feel “bad” and may act out because of it. By helping kids slow down and put a name to what they’re feeling, you will make it easier to deal with the feelings when they come.
Model Positive Expression
Even when it feels like a kid never listens to or respects you, they still get their cues from you even if they aren’t fully aware of it themselves. Therefore, modeling positive self-expression is the easiest way to teach kids how to do it themselves. Be open with your kids about what you’re feeling and show them how you deal with that emotion in a safe and healthy way. As much as it can be hard being vulnerable around your kids, hiding your emotions all the time may just teach kids they should hide or suppress their emotions too. And if you don’t know how to deal with your emotions in a healthy way, now is the time to learn.
Freedom to Express Themselves
As hard as it is to be vulnerable with your kids, it can be just as hard for them to be vulnerable with you. Open up intentional times when you and your kids can talk about what’s on your minds. These times allow the child to express their feelings without fear of judgment and without the sense that they are being talked over or that their emotions are silly. Showing that you’re really listening to them is the best way to help children express themselves at these times.
Give Them Emotional Outlets
Emotions will come out one way or another. If not expressed through healthy, controlled avenues, emotions may manifest in unhealthy, destructive ways. Provide kids with a wide variety of ways to express their feelings. Variety here is important. Different emotions at different times will be expressed differently by different kids. Sometimes talking, journaling, or sitting quietly will work. At other times, kids respond well to physical activity or more artistic outlets. Consider signing kids up for activities like sports, martial arts, dance, art, or music lessons so that they will have these skills in their pocket when these feelings arise.