Let them Share: Helping Children Express their Feelings
During a boys’ mentoring session, one of the quieter students shared his thoughts regarding attempting suicide. When the education coordinator shared this information with my colleague and I, we both were shocked. I would never have thought that this student might be experiencing suicidal thoughts or consider actions that could be harmful to himself. However, it is often quite difficult to read what is going on with someone just from looking at them. Students deal with a host of personal issues and are constantly growing and going through a series of transitions and changes. Therefore, its critical for them to learn how to express and communicate their thoughts and feelings. Bottling emotions inside can be unhealthy and prevents students from getting the help and support they need. Thus, the focus of this blog is a review of four key strategies that can assist students with emotional expression.
Here are four key strategies to help assist students in expressing their feelings daily:
Watch for cues – Be in tuned with your student’s senses by looking at their body language and listening to what they’re saying and observe their behavior. Figuring out what they feel and why means you can help them identify, express, and maintain those feelings better.
Behind every behavior is a feeling – Try to read the meaning and emotion behind your students’ behaviors. You can help children find other ways to express their feelings once you know what is driving the action.
Identify feelings in others – Provide lots of opportunities to identify emotions in others. You might ask your students to reflect on what someone else may be feeling. Cartoons or picture books are a great way to discuss feelings and help kids learn how to recognize other people’s emotions through facial expressions. This also helps to build deeper understanding and empathy!
Be a role model – Kids learn about feelings and how to express them appropriately by watching others. Show your child how you’re feeling about different situations and how you deal with those feelings. Be cognizant of your own behaviors- as children tend to do as we do- not just as we say.
Encourage with praise – Praise your child when they talk about their feelings or appropriately express them. Emotions are natural, and it’s ok to talk about them- in facts its very important! Hiding emotions can lead to build up of sadness or anger and may result in the behaviors we want our children to avoid (tantrums, attitudes, etc.)
Listen to your child’s feelings –Staying present and resisting the desire to ignore children’s unhealthily emotions helps support their growth. Children are constantly learning and require guidance on how to deal with emotions. Even as adults- emotions can be quite overwhelming, so it’s especially important that we teach our children how to make sense of what’s going on- on the inside!
As I reflect, I was pleased that the student in the boys’ mentoring session felt comfortable enough with our staff to share his feelings. By providing students an opportunity to share their opinions, they are encouraged to address the daily problems as they encounter them.
Tiana Brown is the Assistant Director of the Norwalk Housing Authority Learning Centers