Have your kids ever bitten or punched someone when they were extremely frustrated or angry? Or maybe your children have pitched a tantrum when upset. Part of the problem is a sense of being unable to adequately express the strength of their emotions in ways they believe are being heard. Other children may appear to shut down entirely, unwilling to talk about what they are feeling and thinking. Helping your children find ways to adequately express what they are feeling and get the emotional decompression they need can be accomplished by teaching them some alternative strategies to replace inappropriate ones.
Here are some great ways to help your kids express their emotions.
- Increase their emotional vocabulary. The word “angry” doesn’t feel strong enough if your kids are furious and feels too strong if they are merely irritated. Teaching them more words for various levels of emotions can make a huge difference – especially in younger children.
- Encourage them to pray their emotions to God. Show them some of the Psalms that express obviously strong emotions. Explain that for thousands of years many people have not only read and sung the Psalms, they have prayed them as well. Teach them that God wants them to tell Him about their emotions and ask for His help in expressing them properly. This can be particularly helpful for children reluctant to talk about their emotions to the people around them.
- Provide art supplies. Allow them to paint or draw anything they want. The images themselves will at times depict what is upsetting them, but often the underlying emotions are expressed by their artistic choices. You don’t need to analyze or understand their works of art. You can try asking open ended questions like “Can you tell me about your painting?” Don’t worry if they keep the conversation on a shallow level. They are still having benefits from the process of creating the art.
- Encourage listening to music or playing an instrument. Explain that the right music can help them better control their feelings by calming, soothing or energizing them. Some children benefit from listening to music that matches their current emotions, while most find music that represents their desired emotional state is more effective. Check in periodically to see if they believe certain songs are helping them or making them feel worse and encourage them to replace songs that aren’t helping.
- Provide opportunities to help with household chores like cooking, washing dishes, vacuuming and others in age appropriate ways. The repetitive, mindless nature of most chores can prove soothing. It can also keep them occupied in positive ways as they sort out their feelings.
- Encourage hobbies that have some physicality and repetitive tasks in them. Knitting, crocheting, wood working, model building – even putting jigsaw puzzles together – can prove soothing and calming.
- Encourage outdoor exercises. Sunlight helps regulate moods and the physical element can help lessen the impact of string emotions. Children should be encouraged to find a type of exercise that they enjoy so they will happily do it when stressed.
Helping your children learn how to control their emotional state gives them an important Christian life skill. It’s worth taking the time and effort to help them learn and practice.