In our previous post about acknowledging feelings, we talked about its many benefits for your children. In this post, we’ll talk about HOW you can acknowledge children’s feelings.
Acknowledging feelings is a simple concept, but not necessarily easy to implement. Because of culture or how we were raised, acknowledging the feelings of children might not come naturally. What’s more common, at least in the Asian context, is denying, ignoring or distracting from feelings.
How then do we acknowledge children’s feelings?
Here are 2 simple strategies you can use immediately:
1. Be present and practice active listening
The first step to acknowledging your child’s feelings is to be present and see the world through their eyes. The adult world is full of distractions. Work, phones, housework, Netflix and a sense of rush provide constant distraction. It’s important that you slow down and pay attention to listening to your child's feelings and try to understand his thoughts and experiences. When you can truly pay attention to what feelings he might have, you’ll be able to acknowledge your child’s feelings better.
So when your child comes up to you upset or scared, try to put away your phone or turn off the TV and give her the full attention that allows you to see where your child is coming from.
2. Identify your child’s feelings and verbalize it
Verbalising what your child might be feeling can help him feel that you understand his internal experience.
If your child’s favourite toy was broken, identifying his feelings and verbalising it might sound like: “You’re really upset that your toy car broke, it was your favourite.”
Or if your child has hit a friend, you can acknowledge her feelings and set a boundary at the same time by saying something like: “It looks like you were really angry at Hafiz. You can be angry at him, but I can’t let you hit him. I’ll carry you to the other room to calm down.”
Don’t worry about getting it right every single time. It takes practice to be able to identify your child’s feelings and verbalise it. But you also won’t be able to tell 100% of the time what your child is feeling. If you’re not sure or didn’t get it right, your child will most likely tell you by disagreeing.
The goal is not perfection but to be able to show up consistently for your child so that they feel seen and heard.
Acknowledging your child's feelings might feel awkward at first, but it really is such a powerful way of letting your child know that he matters and that you accept him just the way he is.