May is Mental Health awareness month and an excellent opportunity to encourage your child to build healthy habits. As children grown, so do their brains. As their bodies change, the experience an avalanche of emotions that can be difficult to manage. One important way a parent can help is by encouraging children of all ages to talk openly about their feelings.
Importance of Talking about Feelings
When in Doubt, Talk it Out. This age-old adage is wisdom many of us acknowledge, but don’t always follow. While we know we should talk about our feelings, it helps to understand why it is so important. In her article on Medium, Christine Lorelie explores the importance of talking about our feelings.
She references Dr. Edmund Bourne, the author of “The Anxiety and Phobia Workbook,” who suggests that holding your feelings might cause you to suffer anxiety, depression, headaches, high blood pressure, and more. He advises that learning to identify and express your feelings can reduce or eliminate those symptoms.
She lists several benefits for talking about our feelings including:
- Release stress — After all, venting is a coping mechanism.
- Process your thoughts
- You make better decisions
- Practice your communication skills
- Strengthen your relationships
- You feel supported
Learn, Practice, and Model Open Communication Habits
Once we understand how beneficial talking about our feelings is, we can begin to help our children learn to do it. Nationwide Children’s pediatric blog emphasizes the importance of using emotional language. They remind parents that, “Talking about feelings sounds simple, but can actually be quite difficult. We often assume this skill will develop naturally; however, many children need a lot of practice to grow comfortable talking about how they feel, especially in the moment. They offer the following advice:
- Model Talking About Your Feelings: Using specific words to describe your own anger, sadness or happiness can better help children understand feelings.
- Summarize Your Child’s Feelings: If your child is not used to saying how he or she feels, help them describe and label their feelings.
- Summarize Story and Video Characters Feelings: For extra practice talking about feelings, labeling how characters from books or movies are feeling can be helpful.
- Practice Talking About Feelings: Children are more likely to use feeling language in-the-moment if prompted to practice as often as possible.
- Allow Your Child to Have Feelings: It is difficult to not fix children’s problems. As soon as they say their train is stuck on the track, you want to help them move it. Instead, use these opportunities to help them recognize their feelings and help themselves cope.