How To Manage Your Feelings and Help Your Children to Manage Theirs
Many of us grow up believing that feelings, especially feelings that make us feel uncomfortable, angry or sad, are wrong. We need to teach ourselves and our children, that all feelings, including the big ones, are okay. It’s what we do in reaction to those feelings that can be either positive or injurious.
Feelings themselves are actually helpful cues to tell us that something is going on inside – perhaps we need to fix something, or do something more often or less often, or maybe we need to get some help. When a plant’s leaves get dry and wither up, it’s a sign that they need water. When our tummy grumbles, it’s a sign we need food. These are signs that tell us that things need to change in order for things to get better.
Our feelings do the same thing:
- when we feel scared, it might be a sign that we’re not safe;
- when we feel angry at someone, it might be a sign that something with that relationship needs to change;
- when we feel happy, it might be a sign that we should keep on doing whatever we are doing.
If we learn to listen to our feelings, we can learn a lot about ourselves, and how to react to our feelings in a helpful way.
What can individuals do to manage feelings?
- Begin by listening to your feelings. There may be feelings we like to feel and feelings we like to avoid, but it is important to listen to all your feelings. Again, all feelings are valid and healthy cues that require a response. Accept them as part of you and let them be useful to you.
- Find healthy ways to express and react to your feelings (e.g., write them in a journal, express them through art and music, exercise or participate in some form of physical activity).
- Try talking about your feelings with someone you trust.
How can parents help their children to manage feelings?
Remember that kids are at a different developmental level than adults, so emotional management skills that we have mastered as adults are foreign to them. You can help them to develop kid-sized skills by:
- Validating how they feel and letting them know that emotions are okay.
- Encouraging them to talk about their feelings.
- Teaching them to talk about their feelings instead of acting out.
- Adjusting how you talk about feelings to match their developmental level.
- Modeling healthy ways to express and deal with feelings.
- Exploring alternative ways to express their feelings (like drawing, acting, dancing or playing) when they are struggling with verbal expression.
- Finding ways to help them work through their feelings, like
- physical exercise,
- soothing sensations (a warm bath, cool drink, a hug),
- journal writing or drawing,
- talking to family or friends.
- Seeking more help through community resources:
- Front Door
- Counselling agencies
- School resources
- On-line resources like Tools for Life
Some good books for younger developmental levels that can help you to talk about feelings with your children in language that they understand include:
- When I Feel Angry by Albert Whitman
- The Way I Feel by Janan Cain
- Sometimes I’m Bombaloo by Rachel Vail.
Having strong emotional management skills will help both adults and children to get through many tough situations that they may face in every stage of life.