January 1, 2021

Helping Children Deal with Their Feelings

Author: Ms. Aoife Ruane - Lower Elementary Dean of Students

A big part of my job here at AISVN is dealing with children’s feelings. They might be mad at their friend for not playing fairly; sad that they had to leave their Mom and Dad or nervous about trying a new activity.

It would be easy for me to ‘dismiss’ these emotions using phrases like ‘It’ll be ok’, ‘don’t worry’ or ‘I’m sure your friend didn’t mean it’.

While these phrases may seem appropriate, what they are actually saying to the child, is that their feelings don’t matter. This may, in turn, cause the child to act out, or worse, hide their feelings from you in the future, for fear of being dismissed again.

What can you say or do instead?

Possible actions (before you say anything)

  • Hugs (ask first!)
  • Sitting side-by-side
  • Move away - give space
  • Stop other interactions
  • Get a drink of water
  • Encourage deep breathing
Helping Children Deal With Their Feelings

Use calming phrases and acknowledge feelings

  • ‘Let’s take a break’
  • ‘It looks like you’re having a hard time’
  • ‘I’m here with you’
  • ‘Let’s take time to calm our bodies’
  • ‘It’s not nice when friends don’t play fairly’ *
  • ‘It’s hard when we have to try new things’*
  • ‘You wish Mom and Dad didn’t have to leave’*

* The more the child responds ‘yes’ - the calmer they will become. Try it - it really works!

These strategies allow the child to see that their feelings are valid. They are going to have strong emotions and it’s our job, as parents and educators, to ensure that they feel a connection to us and that we are there to listen.

If you would like to learn more about how to positively communicate with your child, I would recommend the book ‘How to Talk so Kids will listen, and Listen So Kids will Talk’ by Adele Faber and Elaine Maslich. It is available in both English and Vietnamese at Fahasa bookstores and online.

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