Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Do Your Kids Know How to Handle Their Emotions?

In the U.S. anxiety is now considered a childhood epidemic, and the rates of depression and suicide continue to climb. In my counseling practice, I sit with numerous young girls who lack coping skills to deal with the fears they face around school, being separated from their parents or other anxiety-inducing situations. I also see young men who have no ability to regulate their emotions. Their only "coping skill" is to explode, with little regard for family members caught in the aftershocks.

How a child develops emotionally often dictates who he becomes as a spouse, friend, co-worker, and even, someday, a parent. That's why two colleagues and I have compiled a list of emotional, spiritual and social milestones we believe kids need to reach. Here are four emotional milestones that parents can be looking for and cultivating as their children grow:

Emotional vocabulary 
When I sit with parents of toddlers, there is one primary emotion those parents describe seeing in their children. You might have guessed it — anger. Anger is what psychologists consider a secondary emotion. That means that generally, another emotion is underneath the anger.

The child having an angry outburst may feel sad over having her feelings hurt by a sibling. Or he may feel fearful and disrupted by transitions (often an indicator of anxiety). But, because the child has not yet learned to name his feelings, they are all funneled into the emotion of anger.

For our children to have healthy relationships and healthy emotional lives as they grow, they need to be able to accurately identify and articulate their feelings. When I speak to churches and schools, I take along a basic feelings chart. One family created their own chart. The 8-year-old girl who made it included the traditional emotions of sadness, fear, and anger with the correlated expressions, but added a surprised face with, "I didn't see that coming!"

A feelings chart will help children accurately learn to name their feelings. This can be a natural learning process if you talk about emotions often. And if you develop the skill of clearly naming your own feelings, you will model how this is done with your children.

Cont. here

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