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Encourage Your Kid to Discuss His Feelings
Some people naturally discuss feelings and emotions; these people typically have a free flow of thought that lands swiftly on whatever ears they trust to take them to heart. For everyone else? Talking about feelings is tough; breaking into the emotional mind of these folks is something akin to breaking into a complicated safe – it takes patience as you listen for subtle ticks and hear repetitive patterns that lead you to mysterious conclusions that may or may not be accurate. Whether it comes naturally or not, it’s healthy to discuss feelings, and the habit should be formed at a young age. Easier said than done, though. Right? How exactly do you go about encouraging your kid to discuss his feelings?
Start As Early As Possible
Good habits start young, very young. When your boy is still in his car seat… talk to him. Don’t simply chat on your cell phone or talk to the passenger next to you. Even if your little one is too young to carry on a full blown conversation with you, just have fun with it. Talk to him about your surroundings, fire trucks, railroad tracks, the grocery store, dogs… anything that may keep him engaged and remotely interested in what you’re saying – share it. Before you know it, he’ll be four years old and much more inclined to have a conversation with you riding down the road, simply because it feels normal to him. Without this feeling of normalcy, in depth conversations about feelings will never happen.
Eliminate Distractions; Simply Make Time for It
Distractions like television and video games and cell phones rob us of quality time everyday. They allow us to turn our minds off and to focus on an alternative reality, rather than our own. Not only does this allow our intuitive brain to shut down, it also closes off opportunities for meaningful discussion. Set some guidelines for your household that you follow throughout the life of your child that allow regular opportunities for him to share without having to work for it. How? Eliminate post-dinner TV time, have a “cell phone spot” where you keep all phones after work and school, and use the time you now have for quality family time.
Discuss Your Feelings (Appropriately) With Him
Lead by example: show him what it looks like to discuss your feelings. He’ll learn more from how you act than what you say, anyway. Be appropriate with this, don’t ever go out of your way to discuss how angry you are with his father (for example). Rather, discuss simple things: your feelings are hurt because he chose to skip an important family dinner when he was upset with you for punishing some previous bad behavior; you’re proud of him for making the right decision when he was hanging out with his friends the other night. Show him how it’s done before you expect him to do it.
Help Him Understand Why It’s Important Early On
Sometimes adults forget that it helps kids to know the “why” behind their requests. Simply giving your kid a larger perspective than he may currently have might actually help. Teach him that sharing your feelings is important because it allows you to connect with those who want to hear from your heart; it also, in many ways, is helpful in lessening any emotional burden. Explain that one day there’ll be a special someone in his life who wants and needs to hear how he feels, who wants to join with him in his excitement or worry, and that forming the habit early on will allow that to happen more naturally.
Open Up the Floor for Discussion Regularly
Some kids just need to be prompted. They’re like little timers: they’re not going to “ding” without being wound up, but once you wind them, the dinging is inevitable. Assume that your kid is like that, and open up the floor for discussion on a regular basis. If there’s tension in the household surrounding a certain situation, use common sense to determine if he might need to talk about it. Approach him quietly, without siblings or friends around, and give him an opportunity to share. Even if he doesn’t, he will likely open up later, simply because he knows you want to hear.
Encouraging your kid to discuss his feelings is wise for his own well being as well as the well being of those who love him. Teach him how to do it, why he should do it, and start early on in his life. You (and he) will be glad you did.
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