Help Your Kids Express Their Emotions

Learning about emotions and how to express them is an often overlooked yet essential lesson. Being unable to express emotions in a proper manner more often than not may lead to loss of confidence and puts children in unhealthy mental states as they grow up.

Especially in many Asian families, kids are taught to stay strong and avoid revealing their “weaknesses” in front of others. Gradually, kids get used to hiding and suppressing their emotions, or even denying those feelings altogether as a form of defense mechanism simply because they were not taught how to deal with them. When people “don’t know” how to express their feelings, a new set of problem arises.

So, how can parents nurture their young ones into expressive individuals?

Improving Child’s Expressiveness

1. Tune in to their cues

To encourage the right amount of self-expression, parents should respond as soon as they hear their kids. Admittedly, it is sometimes hard to identify the emotion that kids are going through when they do not express themselves. Nevertheless, it is good to at least let them know that you are listening and trying to understand what they are feeling. Parents would need to pay more attention to their kids by observing their body language or listening to them attentively. After figuring out the exact emotion in play, parents will be able to label teach their kids how to manage their emotions well.

2. Talk about your own feelings

Kids learn about emotional expression by observing the people around them. The best way to teach your children to express their feelings is by setting an example yourself. Parents need not pursue a perfect image by trying to maintain a calm and composed exterior 24/7 in front of their kids. Instead, use easy words to convey your emotions when situations arise. For instance, you can tell your kids, “I feel angry that nobody wants to help me with washing the car.”

It is helpful for kids to recognize the different emotional vocabulary by observing the emotions of their parents and try using them to express their own feelings. They will also learn that it is actually not a negative thing to show personal emotions. If you want your children to learn more about emotions, you can start the discussion using characters in stories or in cartoons, which is an effective way to learn to identify the emotions of others.

3. Praise more

For kids who are afraid to open up, parents can encourage them by giving praises. When you find that your child is trying to express themselves, reinforce that behavior by encouraging them to talk more. Positive praises allow them to be more willing to respond to their feelings in appropriate ways.

4. Punish less

Some children will stop showing their feelings if they are constantly being punished for it. For example, a child may whine and yell when he/she gets angry. Facing these situations, parents tend to correct the child’s behavior by taking disciplinary actions such as spanking or scolding. However, these punishments do nothing to help them deal with their emotions. Instead, children may learn to bottle up their emotions on a subconscious level, because they have learned through experience that their “bad” emotions will bring them punishment.

The Important Role of Parents

Parents should realize that they do play a vital role in children’s emotional management. Kids can learn to regulate their emotions faster under their parents’ assistance. To reduce the tendency of emotional suppression, parents should assist their children in processing and managing their emotions in positive ways until they are able to handle it by themselves. And always remember — attentiveness, patience, tone of speech is key. 


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