Helping children communicate about emotions

When emotions run high communication is difficult - for both children and adults.

I am lucky to have two sisters that I am close with. However, close doesn’t always mean we see eye to eye. Last week my sister and I were disagreeing about politics.

My sister made a comment that I took very personally. I was so upset I couldn’t even finish the disagreement.  Later that night I called my sister back and told her how surprised I was that I was unable to talk while feeling so upset.

I see similar reactions in my young children, aged 3 and 6, when they are fighting.  The six-year old is taller and thinks faster than her younger brother. When they are fighting over a toy she can get her own way by putting it out of his reach.

My three-year old’s response is to either hit his sister or start screaming.  I catch myself telling them to “use your words” but the reminder on its own doesn’t actually help them to do so.

When emotions run high communication is difficult – for both children and adults. When parents teach their children the language and skills to manage emotions, children grow into individuals who have better relationships at school, at home and at work.

Here are a few tips to help your children communicate about emotions:

Help toddlers learn the names of emotions (happy, sad, mad, tired, and scared). Talk about your own emotions and the emotions of characters in books and on TV.

Help children learn to regulate their own emotions . Show them how to take a few moments to breathe when emotions run high and how to come back when they are feeling calmer.

Give children the words instead of telling them to “use your words.”  When you see your child expressing himself by hitting or using other unacceptable behaviours, tell him what he could say instead. For example, you can say “Scott tell Suzie how you feel. Say ‘when you put the bear where I can’t reach it I feel mad. I want a turn.’”

Teach your children simple phrases that help them talk about emotions. For example “I don’t like that” and “please do something different” are very useful during conflict.  Older pre-schoolers and elementary school age children are very capable of explaining their feelings with the formula of “when you ____ I feel _____”

Calmly coaching children to communicate in times of high emotion and modelling these skills yourself can help children become successful communicators. These valuable communication skills help children become good problem-solvers and feel more confident about their relationships with others.

Julie Lewis is a registered speech-language pathologist with Interior Health.

Just Posted

Nuclear medicine temporarily suspended at KBRH

Upgrades expected to be in service by end of September

Nine fires burning in West Kootenay

All fires considered to be lightning caused.

West Kootenay afternoon storms spark fires

Lots of thunder and lightning, and little rain, as system moves through region

PLACE NAMES: Rossland neighbourhoods, Part 1

Early Rossland townsite built on top of mining claims

PHOTOS: Elusive ‘ghost whale’ surfaces near Campbell River

Ecotourism operator captures images of the rare white orca

Victoria mom describes finding son ‘gone’ on first day of coroners inquest into overdose death

Resulting recommendations could change handling of youth records amidst the overdose crisis

Dash-cam video in trial of accused cop killer shows man with a gun

Footage is shown at trial of Oscar Arfmann, charged with killing Const. John Davidson of Abbotsford

Suicide confirmed in case of B.C. father who’d been missing for months

2018 disappearance sparked massive search for Ben Kilmer

Eight U.S. senators write to John Horgan over B.C. mining pollution

The dispute stems from Teck Resources’ coal mines in B.C.’s Elk Valley

Threats charge against Surrey’s Jaspal Atwal stayed

Atwal, 64, was at centre of controversy in 2018 over his attendance at prime minister’s reception in India

Anti-vaxxer Robert F. Kennedy Jr. to speak in Surrey

He’s keynote speaker at Surrey Environment and Business Awards luncheon by Surrey Board of Trade Sept. 17

Otters devour 150 trout at Kootenay hatchery

The hatchery has lost close to 150 fish in the past several months

B.C. church’s Pride flag defaced for second time in 12 days

Delta’s Ladner United Church says it will continue to fly the flag for Pride month

Most Read