How to Be Honest With Your Child About Feelings

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Many new parents believe that they should always be happy or pleasant with their children, even if the parent is feeling anything BUT happy. But this can lead to problems down the road with emotional intelligence, recognizing feelings, and learning how to properly handle negative feelings.

To always be pleasant around a child is a noteworthy goal, but it is not something that can hold up in the long-run. Everyone has unpleasant feelings from time to time (like anger, jealousy, resentment, etc) and by not showing your child that you feel this way at any given point may lead them to hide their own negative feelings, believe that you never get mad (which is actually a bad thing, cause we’re all human), or that having negative feelings makes them a bad person. None of which are true! But children blame themselves for problems that happen in their lives because they don’t have the complex thinking to understand that the world doesn’t revolve around them! This is normal behavior for a child!

As a parent, it’s a good idea to be as “real” with your child as possible. Talk in your real voice, use words that you usually use with your child, part take in activities that you usually enjoy, and share what you’re thinking out-loud with your child. This helps them learn what goes through your head to arrive at a conclusion (which is a great way to develop critical thinking skills).

If your child topples over and bumps her head, say lovingly, “Owie, that hurt! You bumped your head.” Children can instantly calm down once their feelings have been validated and they know that someone understands them. This helps build emotional intelligence which will help a child be able to identify which feeling they are experiencing. If you child seems frustrated because the formula in his bottle is plugged at the bottle’s nipple, say “I know, you’re frustrated. Mommy fix it.” If your child is upset that he has to go to bed, say, “I know you’re tired, honey. I know you don’t want to, but we need to go night-night.”

If you, as a parent, are feeling overwhelmed or angry toward your child, know that it is ok to feel these things. It is NOT ok, however, to take your frustration out on your child by hitting, spanking, neglecting their needs, etc. Understand that NO parent keeps their composure all the time, but also understand that blowing up, causing a scene, and striking your child out of anger are not appropriate responses. If you’re upset, it’s good to let your child see it in your face and in your tone of voice. If you hide your feelings or gloss over them, your child will not learn the skills needed to handle their emotions properly and may “blow up” instead of expressing negative feelings on a regular basis, where the regular basis is the much more desirable option.

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