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Five ways to teach tweens and teens about their feelings

Your tweens and teens can navigate this phase of development and come out stronger on the other side if they learn to tap into their feelings.

Teaching children about feelings is important for just about everything on the Long Parenting Trail, from spreading toddler power struggles, cultivating empathy in young children, helping teens. learn emotional self-regulation or navigate relationships until adulthood.

I can tell you firsthand that suppressing feelings is not good. I grew up in an environment where drawing attention to yourself by showing emotions often leads to verbal or physical outbursts, so I practiced calming my feelings. Not learning how to express or deal with my feelings ultimately led to issues like an eating disorder, overjudging others, and sometimes destroying relationships.

I have spent much of the last decade working on connecting to my emotions, with a 30 child “How are you feeling today?” Option. poster in my office that I use to identify my own feelings.

While the idea of ​​dealing with feelings might seem scary and vulnerable, the tactics to help kids exploit them are fairly straightforward. Here are five ways to teach tweens and teens about their feelings.

Don’t hurt your child’s feelings

Start by respecting children’s feelings. Children who feel respected and listened to will learn to understand their feelings and those of others.

The next time your child is in distress, don’t shake their feelings with responses such as “Don’t be so upset” or “You’re overreacting,” recommended Julie King, co-author of “How to talk when kids. have won “. t Listen: whining, fights, meltdowns, mistrust and other childhood challenges. ”

King suggests affirming the feeling and what’s going on in the moment with a response such as “You look really angry.” This situation has clearly upset you. “

A common trap for parents is to worry that naming negative emotions will intensify the emotions, but research shows otherwise. “Naming negative feelings in the loudest language possible turns off alarm bells in the amygdala that tell your brain to be scared or angry,” said Joanna Faber, King co-author of “How to Talk.” when the children are not listening “.

Learn the range of emotions, together

Encourage children to label their feelings, which will better position them to work at problem solving. “You’re going to react differently if you’re bored than if you’re tired or alone,” explained Phyllis Fagell, Certified Clinical Professional Advisor and author of “Middle School Matters: The 10 Key Skills Need to Thrive in Middle School and Beyond. beyond – and how parents can help. “

Fagell also suggests that parents expand their own vocabulary of feelings – perhaps by using a feeling wheel ((maybe a link to an example? Not sure most people know what this is)) – to help their child label emotions. “A parent might say, ‘I can tell by your expression that their comment doesn’t suit you. I wonder if you’re a little frustrated, or maybe angry. Does that sound okay to you?'”, suggested Fagell.

Tracking feelings, even just once a day, can help children in this process. “Over time, they can notice patterns and more easily identify times or situations that cause great feelings,” said Janine Halloran, certified mental health counselor and author of “The Coping Skills for Kids Workbook”. Halloran suggests that children use a mood tracker app, type notes into their phones using words or emojis, or create a feeling tracker in a bullet journal.

Model positive motivations

Like many aspects of parenting, modeling children’s behavior is crucial. It is important to encourage children to assume the best of times.

“College kids can have a hard time embracing a positive intention, and it can encourage them to think more broadly about someone’s motives,” Fagell said. She encourages parents to default to the position that others wish them well, which will ultimately make it easier for children to self-regulate their emotions.

“You might say, ‘I left Sandy a message, and she didn’t call me back. At first I walked around wondering if maybe she was mad at me, but I decided to leave a second message, and it turned out she never received the first. ‘”

Encourage children to harness invisible skills

Great feelings will undoubtedly arise when the children return to school; arm them with a tactic to help them cope quietly. “When kids feel overwhelmed at school, they usually want to use invisible skills so no one will know they are using coping skills,” Halloran explained.

She recommends breathing exercises such as inhaling for a beat and exhaling for two times or looking at a deep breathing gif on their phone, so it looks like they’re just looking at their phone but doing a deep breathing exercise.

In times of stress, Halloran also recommends that teens imagine their favorite place. “Find out what this place is when they are at home, talk about it and encourage them to use their senses to imagine it. Then when they’re at school, if they’re feeling stressed or overwhelmed or in need of a break, they can imagine their favorite place and take a quick mini-vacation in their minds, ”Halloran said.

To achieve this goal, Halloran encourages children to create a memory of their favorite place while on vacation. “When they’re enjoying a time on vacation, pay attention to all the details. Think about how you smell, smell, look, hear, and taste when you are there. When you focus on those senses now, it’s easier to bring up that favorite place later. “

Encourage kindness and empathy

One of the best things parents can do is encourage kindness and empathy in tweens and teens. “When tweens embrace the differences of others and truly appreciate that everyone has a unique and compelling story, they are much more likely to accept their own whims,” Fagell explained.

Fagell also notes that behaving with kindness and empathy towards one’s peers often sets off a positive cycle, and that middle school students are especially receptive to reciprocal kindness.

“Much of the self-regulation over the two years comes down to being able to sit down with discomfort, being able to deal with less desirable emotions such as anger, insecurity and jealousy. And when. they’re kind to others, they tend to be nicer to themselves, which makes them less likely to act impulsively and blow up their own reputation, ”Fagell explained.

Feelings serve a purpose; we cannot ignore them or beef them up. Sometimes calm is the answer. “We know from our own experience that when we are overwhelmed with emotion, we cannot get away with it,” King said. Finding the time to recuperate to sit down with feelings and then go through them is a powerful part of the journey.

Christine Koh is a former music and brain scientist turned author, podcaster and creative director. You can find his work on


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