Sunday, November 21, 2010

Helping Your Child Share Feelings

Came across this post today:
There are many reasons why children have limited emotional skills: a parent may think the child is too young to learn emotional language, the child may not like to share feelings or the parents themselves may not be gifted in this area. No matter the cause, you and your child can learn the steps to improve emotional expression. They are:

1.Teach her the primary feeling words: happy, sad, mad, scared. Write each feeling word on a piece of paper; for elementary age and younger, draw or paste a feeling face picture to the corresponding feeling word. Post the paper in an eye-catching spot in your home.

2.Help him learn which facial expression matches each feeling word. For example, on your face show him a smile and raised eyebrows to display happy feelings whereas a furrowed brow and tight mouth display mad feelings. Make it a game; take turns showing a feeling face. Allow the other person to guess which feeling face was demonstrated. To keep your child’s attention, keep score and award a small prize or treat to the winner.

3.Encourage your child to express her feelings. Include verbal and nonverbal forms of communication. Some nonverbal ways to share feelings include writing, painting or drawing. Many families have a special alone time to talk about feelings. In the beginning ask your child to complete a sentence, such as: Today I feel happy/sad/mad/scared because . . .

4.Ask your child to communicate his feelings in the moment. When you notice your child experiencing feelings ask, “How are you feeling?” If he is unsure point it out to him, ie: “I see your big smile, are you happy?”

5.Give positive reinforcement for sharing. Even if your child isn’t accurate at first, recognize his attempts with praise. Remember, just like any new skill, time and practice improves performance.
Good advice, and a great precursor to adoption talk. This is part of the vocabulary kids need to understand and process adoption.

6 comments:

OmegaMom said...

These things don't always work. They presuppose that a child will, at some point, *want* to talk about their feelings.

We did all that. For years, we did the "feeling game" at bedtime: what made me happy today was x, what made me sad today was y, what made me angry today was z.

Our dotter quickly morphed it into a ritual that had no meaning.

To this day, she is unable to talk about her feelings.

Elizabeth@Romans8:15 said...

this actually has been helpful for us. Our problem was more the language barrier we had working against us. By acting out some of the feelings, it demonstrated to our son what we meant when we said, "you must be sad" or "it seems like you are angry".

osolomama said...

Tend to agree with OmegaMom. What would be worse would be to suggest feelings that kids "ought" to have and watch them "display" those feelings for your benefit. Some kids do NOT want to share their deepest feelings with you. Respect that.

Carol Lozier, LCSW said...

Hi OmegaMom and osolomama, I would like to express further... this actually does work! I wrote this post and am a therapist specializing in helping foster and adopted kids. For kids who have difficulty verbalizing feelings, it's even more important to teach them skills to express themselves. As a matter of fact, identifying and expressing feelings are a foundation for healing from any past abandonment, loss or trauma. Take a look at my other posts as this was one of a several. And Elizabeth- I am glad this was helpful to you! Thanks, Carol Lozier, LCSW

malinda said...

Carol, thanks for chiming in -- you can tell I was impressed with your blog, since I decided to share from it!

It seems to me that even if you don't think your child will share her feelings, it is still important to give her the vocabulary to name the feelings. Without that, she doesn't have a reference point for understanding her OWN feelings, much less share them.

One doesn't have to suggest what feelings ought to be in giving that vocabulary. You and your child need a shared vocabulary for feelings if there's any hope of you sharing your feelings, them sharing their feelings, your letting them know the feelings of others, letting them know that all manner of feelings are normal, etc.

Carol Lozier said...

Malinda,
Please feel free to share any of my posts! I want them to be accessible to all foster and adoptive families. And you are correct, we want to give kids the vocabulary and opportunity to share feelings. Just like any other skill, the more they practice, the better they will get at it. Carol Lozier, LCSW