As a parent one of the hardest things I have had to do was teach my child how to talk about feelings. The conversation was not hard but teaching the skill has been off the scale in terms of difficulty. The gift of being able to articulate what you feel and what you want is one of the most important things you can do for your child’s emotional well-being.
There are some simple things you can do to help your child be successful in this endeavor. One thing you can do is to not discount whatever he tells you about what he is feeling.
For example if your child tells you that he is angry about something, do not tell him he should not be mad. Instead, ask him about what is making him angry. Help your child identify feelings and emotions by using facial expressions, feelings posters, or using books. There are some great books about emotions for even very young child that use facial expression. It is a great way to start the conversation and to start to identify what feelings look like and feel like.
Another way to teach a child about feelings and talking about feelings is to model that behavior for them. Talk about how you are feeling. Children learn behaviors and what is acceptable by watching the adults in their life. If you get in the habit of talking about your feelings in front of your child, then they too will begin to talk about feelings. Be appropriate when doing so as we all know what great imitators children can be. An example could be “I am feeling really happy today because you cleaned your room” or “I am sad because you are not feeling well today”.
Show empathy with your child. A good example might be “I can see you are feeling sad and disappointed that you will not be able to go to the park today because it is raining.” Of course help your child to practice this skill by listening to him and asking him questions about his day and how he is feeling.
Be interested in what he has to say. This is such an important skill to teach. When children are frustrated because they cannot find the right words to express what they are feeling many times we will see anger, sadness and maybe a tantrum or two. This is a great excise that will allow you and your child to increase communication and social skills.