Life is so hectic sometimes that children’s feelings can be unintentionally dismissed. It’s not because we don’t care, but in trying so hard to reassure them, the actual feelings get ignored. Building confidence in children begins with helping them feel secure, loved, accepted and understood.
Intense emotions like anxiety, fear and anger can be frightening for kids. Be calm and nonjudgmental when responding to your child or teen. Get down to their level and make eye contact, if possible. If you’re with an older child or teen, sit near them. Your calm presence allows them to see that everything is “ok” and they’re safe. Allow your child to express his/her emotions. Sometimes, having a calm reassuring person around when you’re upset is all you need to decrease the tension.
Keep things playful and light! Listen, growing up is not always easy and parenting is definitely no joke! Keeping things light and playful goes a long way toward building connections between you and your kids while helping defuse strong emotions. Building in a little roughhousing or humor alleviates tension. It’s much easier to discuss feelings when we aren’t in the midst of feeling them. For older kids, listening to “their” music with them, even if you dislike it, helps build the bond between you.
During times of intense emotions ask “what can I do to help?” or “what do you need?”. Let them explain what they are feeling without any judgement. Instead of asking “What’s wrong with you?” try “What happened to you”? Sometimes as parents we are quick to dismiss the feelings and to give advice. Try to be patient and allow them to express themselves. Listen with empathy. Repeat back what they are saying to you, so you are clear on what they mean. When you do this, your child knows that you heard and understood what they were saying. Let them know that you understand how they got there.
Avoidance is not the answer, not for the child having the feelings or for us parents. Sometimes, we need to lean in and accept the feelings; allow them to happen, listen, empathize, keep it light and assure your child that they are safe and in control.
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