A lot of people don’t realize that kids emotions – and adult emotions – are neither good nor bad in themselves. It’s how we act on them that counts. They are an important part of who we are as human beings, and they act as a safety valve on a very basic level to protect us from some physical and mental illnesses.
It is important for children to understand their emotions, and to learn to express them in a way that is healthy for them and for others. Even adolescents sometimes have trouble expressing feelings in a socially acceptable way, which is why it is important to have patience with them.
Your Example As A Parent
One of the most important ways children learn about their emotions and how to handle them is by observing their parents. Kids emotions are patterned by parents, simply by watching them model how to respond to various life situations, whether in a positive or negative way. For instance, if a child sees parents constantly fighting and acting out in physical aggression, he is more likely to follow this negative behavior in his own life.
Parents often are riddled by guilt because of the wrong choices they have made in their own lives, and they worry about whether their children will follow them. It’s important to remember, though, that children can learn as much from your mistakes as from your right choices, if you allow them to do so.
Communication is the key to helping children learn from your mistakes. For instance, if you lost your temper with a child unnecessarily because you had a bad day, you can sit down with him or her and apologize, then explain why you felt and acted the way you did. This gives children an opportunity to learn something very important, which they will use many times in the future: how to apologize, and how to forgive others.
Children Learn From The Reactions Of Others
Kids emotions and behavior are also shaped by the way people react to expression of positive or negative emotions. A baby will quickly learn that if he cries long enough and hard enough, someone will pick him up eventually, and give him what he needs at that moment, whether it’s a hug, a bottle, or a change of diaper.
When children are young, they have difficulty understanding and sorting out their emotions. Children learn by experience which expressions of emotion work and which don’t, so it’s important for parents and other significant adults in a child’s life not to unwittingly reward bad behavior.
It’s often helpful for parents to sit down with a child who is having a fit of anger and help the child to verbalize what he is feeling. Saying such things as, “It’s okay to feel angry with your brother right now, but it’s not okay to hit him”, helps the child to understand the feelings he has, and how to vent them properly. Passive forms of discipline, such as giving the child a needed time out, can help to curb bad behavior.
Sometimes kids’ emotions are uncomfortable. A child will often act out to try to get rid of an uncomfortable feeling. You can teach them other, healthier methods, like expressing their feelings through arts and crafts, or venting through physical exercise and sports.
Parents should also be quick to reward right behavior when they see it in their children. Since children love to be praised when they do the right thing, this can have a heavy impact on their actions.
Teaching Children Empathy For Others
Empathy is an important trait to develop in your children. It helps them to realize that how they express their emotions can affect someone else in a negative way, and teaches them to care about the feelings of others. How do you break children of the feeling that their own needs are more important than someone else’s?
One way is to describe your own feelings and the feeling of others about their behavior to them. Since children innately want to please their parents, it helps them to understand that wrong expressions of feeling cause pain in others.
It’s also helpful to model for children the importance of reaching out to others in the family or community who may be in need. Teaching volunteerism to children and adolescents, and encouraging them to respond selflessly to the needs of others, helps children to see that there is something important beyond themselves.
Teaching children how to properly deal with emotions isn’t easy, but it is an important tool they will carry with them to use the rest of their lives.