Our little people are not without emotion. Their emotions range just as much as ours do. I wanted to share some insight on how to help kids understand and handle emotions.
I know you are probably thinking, of course, they have feelings. They roll their eyes, they cry, they may even throw tantrums. However, these pique emotions aren’t all the emotions our children experience.
They will have a myriad of emotions that they may not even show you. This can be because they don’t know how to express themselves, they are afraid of having them, or they are afraid they may get in trouble if they tell you.
Some of you may not think the latter is an option, but the way our children view us is not how we think they do. Looking through their eyes can be a very hard thing if we don’t intentionally help our children understand, express, and deal with their emotions.
I actually have experience in this area, and experience that I rather you all not have. How I raised my eldest daughter was in a matter that allowed very little emotion, if any at all, but happiness or melancholy.
My grievous lesson…
This is a sensitive topic for me as a parent. Many times we want to focus on the many things we do right or we live in guilt for things we have done wrong.
This is something that I deeply regret and have deeply learned from it. I was a really young mom. I married at 18, and the by time my daughter was 1, I had already separated.
It was tough. I am grateful I joined the military, as I had a steady income, but it was also difficult. I knew I wasn’t ready to be a parent, nor did I really want to be.
And so being a young and single parent, I chose to be stern with my parenting approach. Once my daughter was old enough to know right from wrong in the simplest sense, I didn’t let her cry at all.
Unless she was hurt, I talked her out of crying, and throwing fits were absolutely out of the question.
. . . OK, I had to step away for a moment. I can’t go through this time in my memory without my heart breaking for her.
So without explaining our whole life story, I can say that I never really allowed her to have any emotions around me that were too stressful . . . for me.
I had enough emotion for both of us, or so I thought. I was wrong.
When she became a teenager, everything came to a head, and I realized the consequences of not letting her experience emotion or letting her talk to me about them.
A few years later, the Lord brought great reconciliation. It literally was only by the grace of God, she has forgiven me, but I sometimes wonder if I have forgiven myself for it.
I do differently with my two youngest children. Thankfully, the mistakes of my youth have shown me how to better mother, and I thank the Lord for allowing my eldest and me a second chance.
So, not actively addressing emotions in your children and helping them learn how to handle them and even self-regulate as they get older, can quite possibly have lasting consequences.
Here is some insight I have learned first-hand on how to help kids understand and handle emotions:
1.Bring them to the Author of our emotions.
Whether this be cliché to you or not, His Word never fails, and it is the only true way we can help our children with their emotions but also let them know who they can turn to.
Can you imagine a world without emotion? We probably would be walking around like robots.
Emotions are all over Scripture, and God himself has them. Since He created us in His own image, we also have them as they are revealed in the Scriptures.
Look, we love, we have joy, we get sad, we have guilt, anger, disappointments, fears and so any more. They are healthy indicators of what is going on in our hearts and minds.
Therefore, as such, explain to your child that their feelings are OK. They are fine, and we all have them. Even God has them. Let them know their feelings are OK.
2. Teach your children that we can manage our emotions instead of letting our emotions manage us.
Our emotions can be overtaken by the influence of sin, and that is why we need to learn to manage them. Romans 6 tells us that we shouldn’t keep sinning just because we can because the Holy Spirit helps us walk in the newness of life.
The Holy Spirit should control us, not our emotions.
The Psalms in the Bible show us how we should approach our emotions. We should cry them out to the Lord. He knows our heart, and he deeply understands what is going on, even better than we do.
So, when helping your kids understand feelings and manage them, go through the Psalms with them. Help them see how emotions were yearning to be heard by God.
Tell them they can do the same when they are feeling emotions, whether scream at the top of their lungs exciting news or crying out in grievance.
5 Great Bible Verses for Kids to Memorize About Anger | Intoxicated on Life
10 Bible Verses For Stressed Kids | More Like Grace
3. We have been given a gift of other believers, to carry each other’s burdens.
Explaining to children that they are not alone is something we sometimes forget to do. We forget that we, ourselves, can feel lonely in a room full of people.
Our children can also feel like this, even with 8 siblings or in a football team full of peers. Address that with them.
Teach them that the Lord has given us the people around us as a gift. When they are feeling happy, sad, angry, hurt, or whatever else it is, they can share that with you or other believers. Help them identify who is safe to talk to so they don’t share their heart with those who will treat them foolishly or embarrass them.
Teach them we are made to rejoice with each other and to grieve with each other just the same.
This may sound over the head of your little ones, but even getting to their level telling them you are there for them in happiness or sadness will mean more than you know (2 Corinthians 1:3–5).
Also, encourage them to encourage others likewise and to be there for others as well. When we encourage others, we often stay encouraged ourselves.
If we recognize our emotions and bring them to God, we can then submit our hearts to Him and allow Him to do His work in our hearts and direct our actions.
4. Now, here are some practical things to go alongside your intentionality in pointing them to Christ through their emotions.
-Teach kids to identify different types of feelings – so they can be aware of them. Here are some resources to help you teach identifying emotions:
Animal Emotion Clip Cards | Totschooling
FREE Printable Bingo Game about Feelings | Dorky Noodles
Printable Emotions Dice FREE Game | And Next Comes L
FREE Printable Feelings Charts | Free Printable Behavior Charts
All About My Feelings: Identifying Emotions with Self Portraits | Still Playing School
30 Activities and Printables that Teach Emotions for Kids | Powerful Mothering
-My experience above tells you that we also have to be role models for our children. They will learn from us, whether we want them to or not. So exemplify healthy reactions to stressors and practice handling your feelings well for them.
-Talk to them about emotions freely. When I am in Sunday school, and a child acts up, I calmly get to their level and say, “Wow, I see you are really angry about this. It’s OK to feel angry, but not OK to stay in our anger, you know?”
They are forced to answer and reflect. I don’t make a big deal about their anger, but their feelings are acknowledged. (Note: I am not saying this will work for you, I am just giving an example.)
-Encourage behaviors in relation to emotions that are handled well. Don’t be afraid to over-emphasize here. I don’t.
When my son put his hands on a peer’s shoulder who was crying, I made sure I pointed it out to him later. I would say something like, “I see how you were concerned about Billy. I love that you were there for him and showed him you cared.”
-There are clear environmental factors that affect our children’s emotions. There are also things that affect how they react to those emotions.
Some of these outside environmental factors are lack of sleep, types of food (red food dyes, sugars, overstimulation, and others).
Keep your eyes open for changes in their reactions to dealing with situations. For some time when my son was little, he had a hard time dealing with his emotions and anger at school.
I had to eliminate foods with red food dyes as much as possible, eliminate candy during the school week, and put him to bed early at the same time every day. He literally was like a different boy during school.
-Equip your kids with useful coping strategies.
Provide a quiet space for your child if they need to go there or self-regulate there. Let them listen to calming music and hymns, take a warm bath, do some artwork, squeeze a stress ball, take deep breaths, or other calming activities. Here are some resources to help:
FREE Printable Emotional Regulation Activity | The Inspired Treehouse
Calming Activities for Kids – FREE Printables | Your Therapy Source
Teach Kids about Anger Signs: ANGER WORKSHEETS for Kids (FREE printable) | Very Special Tales
Coping Skills Videos | Unseen Footprints
FREE Coping Skills Worksheet | Homeschool Superfreak
75 Awesome Calm Down Strategies for Kids | Parents with Confidence
FREE Download – Calm-a-Llama Anxiety Strategies Workbook | The Counseling Teacher
(FREE PDF) 30 Coping Cards for Kids | Very Special Tales
Remember we need to be there for our kids through their feelings. Never tell them they are wrong for feeling. Be the type of Christian they can come to about their feelings and point them to the Cross whenever possible.
Jeannette is a wife, mother and homeschooling mom. She has been mightily, saved by grace and is grateful for God’s sovereignty throughout her life’s journey. She has a Bachelor in English Education and her MBA. Jeannette is bi-lingual and currently lives in the Tongan Islands of the South Pacific. She posts daily freebies for homeschoolers!
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