Helping your children identify and express their feelings doesn’t have to be difficult or scary. You can easily help your children express their feelings during crucial conversations you have with them as they experience the difficulties of life.
Life is hard for adults, can you only imagine what must be going through your children’s minds as they try to process everything going on around them?
As parents, we do our best to raise our children in a happy home where they feel love and security.
Outside of the home is another story entirely.
Our children hear of the local, national, and international news, there are deaths in the family, and feeling accepted by their friends at school might be a struggle for them.
So how can you help your children express their feelings in crucial conversations when they might not even know how they’re feeling?
5 Ways To Help Children Express Their Feelings In A Crucial Conversation
1. Ask The Right Questions At The Right Time
When I ask my five-year-old daughter, “how’s your day?” I’m 99% likely going to get the answer of either “fine” or “good.”
If your child can give you a one-worded answer, they will (it’s the same with adults, right?).
The key is asking the right questions at the right time.
For example, when our family moved across the United States (over 1,500 miles) our daughter had a really difficult time leaving behind certain friends.
My husband and I sat down with her, turned off our distractions (including cell phones), and asked her the question, “how are you really feeling about our family moving?”
From her answer to this question, the questions we asked next helped enhance and deepen the current conversation.
With your children, you want to give them time to talk. Don’t be in any hurry to get through your list of questions, or feel uncomfortable not knowing what to ask.
Crucial conversations don’t happen just once. They’re a process over time of multiple conversations.
Some possible questions to ask can include:
- How does (insert the event, such as “losing Grandma Dennis” or “Susan treating you this way”), make you really feel?
- Do you feel like this will last forever? What is causing you to feel this way?
- Do you know I’m here for you?
2. It’s Okay To Have Silence
Some people feel uncomfortable with silence, but silence is actually a good thing.
We don’t understand what’s going through our children’s minds, what they’re trying to process, or how they’re trying to form their words to express to us how they’re feeling.
When silence comes, don’t run from it or try to start talking, but instead embrace the silence that is happening and allow your child this time to think.
3. Don’t Fill In The Blank For Your Child
We always want to come to the rescue for our children. There are times in this crazy world when I want to hold them a little closer and tell them everything’s going to be okay, even when I have no idea what tomorrow will bring.
When you ask your child a question, and they’re taking time to think about what you’re asking, don’t be in a hurry to provide your child with the answer you might think they’re going to say.
You have to give your child room to feel like they can express themselves completely.
There is a difference between “filling in the blank” and asking follow-up questions. When you “fill-in-the-blank”, you’re giving your child a script you want them to adopt.
Follow-up questions are helpful guides for your child to better understand the question you’re asking.
4. Wait Patiently For When They’re Ready To Talk
Sometimes our children aren’t ready to talk about certain things, such as the death of a loved one, the loss of a friend at school, and current events.
You have to be willing to patiently wait for when they’re ready to talk on their terms, in their time, and in their way. Yes, even if the conversation is before bedtime or in the middle of the night.
As a parent, you’re always on the clock and need to be willing to meet your children when they’re ready. From there, you can help open up the door into their hearts and help them navigate through the craziness of life.
5. Reassure Them But Don’t Take Away Anything From Them
There might be something your child is experiencing that might not be a “big deal” to you, but this could mean the world to your child.
Telling them that “it doesn’t matter” or “no one will remember this in a year” or “that happened to me and I turned out okay” will destroy your relationship with them. Not enhance or help you two grow closer together.
You want to reassure your child in the best possible way that what they’re feeling, feelings of loneliness, sadness, despair, hopelessness, are part of life.
It’s what we choose to do with those feelings that will mold us into who we become and how we face life’s challenges.
When we take these teaching moments away from our children by telling them that “it doesn’t matter,” we are the ones losing out on a great opportunity to bond with our child.
We are also doing our children a huge disservice by not teaching them how to cope with life and process these negative emotions in a healthy manner.
As you ask the right questions at the right time, remember that it’s okay to have silence, not fill in the blanks for your children, wait patiently for them, and reassure them in their feelings, you’ll successfully help your children express their feelings.
Our little ones have so much going through their minds, and as the world keeps spiraling out of control, it’s so important to build this connection with them so they trust us as confidants.
How are you spending time with your children? What has worked great for you during your crucial conversations with them?
Leave a comment below and let us know.
Micah Klug is a wife, homeschooling mother to five children, and author. She teaches time-tested solutions to help parents remember what matters most in life, including strengthening their home, faith, and family relationships. To learn how a child who grew up in an authoritarian home is now creating an environment of peace and joy in her own home visit this page. If you want to contact Micah, send her an email here or email [email protected]