Staying in tune with your child’s emotions can be a challenge. Quite often, in an attempt to calm them down, parents may focus on the behaviour and overlook the underlying cause. So, let’s look at how we can help our children navigate and express their emotions.

A simple way to address your child’s behaviour is by using inviting language that will prompt your child to share their thoughts and feelings. Try asking your child, “Can you help me understand more about how you feel?”; instead of using confronting language such as, “What’s the matter with you?”

For better understanding, here are four phrases that will help your child express their emotions better.

  1. “I’m always here for you, no matter what.”

This phrase is one of the best gifts your child can have. It offers them a sense of security in knowing that you’re always there with them, and it also gives them the courage and strength to let it all out.

  1. “It’s okay to feel ______. I’m here to talk whenever you want to.”

Experiencing negative emotions can be difficult, and there may be times when your child needs a little bit of time to open up. In a situation like this, make sure to validate their feelings. Children that feel safe and secure are more likely to express their emotions without the fear of being misunderstood or judged.

  1. “I’m seeing you’re having a tough time with ______. What can we do to make it better?” 

As a parent, we have a natural instinct to swoop in and save the day when you child encounters a minor inconvenience. As tempting as it may be to solve the problem right away, and where it’s safe to do so, it’s important to encourage critical thinking and problem-solving.

By acknowledging your child’s hardship, we prompt them to reflect on what has happened and what they are feeling; whereas asking them how we can resolve it encourages them to consider and develop of strategies to overcome the source of frustration.

As a result, children will feel more empowered to independently problem-solve or ask for help when needed.

  1. “It seems like you haven’t been yourself lately. Is there something that is bothering you?”  

Children may not always verbalise their feelings right away, especially when something is weighing on their mind. When initiating conversation around your child’s recent change in behaviour, it’s important to approach with empathy, reassurance that you’re there for them, and gratitude when they do share their feelings with you.

For example, “You’ve stopped playing your favourite games, is there something on your mind that I can help with? We can work it out together.”