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Counseling Services – Apr. 2012

April 1, 2012

What Is So Important About Feelings?

If you are like most parents, you sometimes worry about how your young child will handle the whole process of growing up.  You may wonder if there is anything you can do now that will help your child make safe choices as a teenager.  The answer is – yes.  Listen to your child, and encourage him or her to talk about feelings.  Young children let you know exactly how they feel without even thinking about it.  Part of growing up is learning how to manage feelings – especially uncomfortable ones such as anger, disappointment, jealousy or sadness.  Before they reach school age, many children have learned to hide their true feelings.  They need to know that home is a safe place to process their feelings and learn healthy ways to express themselves.  Children pick up signals from their parents and other adults that there are certain things they should not talk about and certain feelings they should keep to themselves.

As adults we are not always comfortable talking to our children about feelings especially feelings of fear, insecurity, anger and loneliness.  We may respond with words that aren’t very helpful such as, “You shouldn’t feel that way”, or “There is no reason for you to feel that way.”  By the time children reach the teen years they may have learned that we don’t really want to hear about their feelings.  They may become guarded and withdrawn and willing to confide in their friends but not in their parents or caregivers.  They may feel isolated and believe that their peers are the only ones who really understand them.  When you take the time to listen without judgment you are encouraging your child to express feelings and are building a trusting relationship that will help in years to come.

Many people in our society have bought into the “Happy Face” myth and believe that being positive and cheerful is good and feelings like sadness or anger are bad.  How should you respond when your child talks about feelings or makes statements such as, “I hate school!”?  First of all try to really listen and don’t try to talk your child out of what he/she is feeling.  Allow for some venting and let him do most of the talking.  “What is it you hate about school?” is a more helpful response than, “You don’t hate school – you just told me yesterday that you loved school.”  Listen to your child and let him know you believe in him and know he is doing his best.

Remember that you cannot solve every problem in your child’s life.  Parents want to fix things for their children and make them happy.  But in most cases there are no quick fixes or simple answers.  Be there to be a sounding board, cheerleader and patient listener.  Have faith that your child can learn the skills to solve his/her own problems by listening and loving unconditionally.

Taken from, “Teaching your children to talk about their feelings” by AADAC
Submitted by:  Cindy Lerner, Family School Liaison Counsellor  (403)836-2346  cindy.lerner@pallisersd.ab.ca

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