EMOTIONS: Helping your kids understand and manage their emotions!
We, humans, are emotional creatures. It is how we are made, however, what is not as straightforward is what do we DO with all these emotions. In the life of a teenager, these can seem even more tumultuous. What teens chose to show you on the outside may not be what is truly going on in the inside. For example, in depression, teens may show more anger than sadness. It is important to pay attention to any change in behavior, attitude etc. A common challenge with people I work with is actually IDENTIFYING what emotion they feel. This is not currently taught in school, and often times goes amiss. And as the cycle continues, I meet adults often who have never checked in with the emotions that they feel, been able to communicate them with others, and been able to address this head one. THIS IS A HUGE PROBLEM. I can’t over state how important it is to talk to our kids about their emotions. It does not have to be a huge KUM BY YAH moment, but trust me they will thank you! Here are a few things to consider when helping teens identify emotions:
1.Never, ever scold for HAVING an emotion: I see this often where client’s were never allowed to express sadness, hopelessness, fear etc in their home. However, ANGER was always present. Therefore, that is the only emotion they feel comfortable expressing, so all other emotions are under the surface, and what consistently shows in anger. So being afraid can look like anger, being sad can look like anger, stress can look like anger etc.Allow your child to cry, be sad, show frustration, feel lonely etc. Explain to them that we all have emotions, and it is how we handle them that is important. It would be helpful for you as well to communicate your emotions with them(when appropriate) so that they do not feel totally alone with their negative emotions.
2.Provide space for them to communicate with you: This means that when they express an emotion to you, you don’t debate it. This can be hard because we want to say, “ Aw, well that’s not true, Monica has always wanted to play with you in the past” You child is not looking for a reason for her to not feel this emotion, they are looking to be heard and understood. It is also impossible to DEBATE an emotion. We feel what we feel, and it is important to let them know you understand how they feel, so they continue to go to you for support and comfort.
3.Teach them emotion words- this may sound elementary and silly. But you may be surprised how many kids I work with don’t know the difference between sad, hopeless, frustrated, enraged, joyful, happy, stressed, overwhelmed etc. I use feeling cards, charades ( act out the face, body language etc) to help kids understand the difference, this also helps kids LEARN how others are feeling also which is imperative to having good social skills.
4.Discuss INTENSITY of feelings- In order to help teen discuss how they are feeling, it is important that they are able to communicate how strongly they feel this. This is important because emotions are felt at varying levels. And we are all different in our feelings of them. Something that makes some one hit a ten of intensity may only cause someone a level 3 of annoyance. It is important for your kids to understand this, along with they way they gauge their own intensity. This also helps them understand that the intensity of their feelings changes. For example, with time, sadness over a lost pet may decrease etc.
5.Feelings are not facts: This is an important one for all of us. We can all be swept away with emotions from time to time. However, if we are feeling sad one minute, we can’t jump to the conclusion that because I am sad today, I am always sad, I am always going to feel sad etc. Emotions are powerful, but we can’t give them too much power. It is best to help your child identify how they feel, state it, with the understanding that this will change. We have to always remember that this too shall pass. This is often easier said than done but we will get into more how to do that next week!
***Disclaimer: This blog is the opinion of an individual and does not constitute professional advice or a professional relationship to the reader. If you are seeking mental health services, please contact a therapist in your area. If you are experiencing an emergency, please go to the nearest hospital or call 911.***