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Learning to identify and express feelings in a positive way helps children develop the skills they need to manage them effectively. From the moment a child is born, they start learning the emotional skills they need to identify, express and manage their feelings. They learn how to do this through their social interactions and relationships with important people in their lives such as parents, grandparents and carers.

The first person your child may turn to when they are sad, worried or anxious about something is you. Some children find talking about their feelings easier than others. Learning to identify and express feelings helps children develop the skills needed to manage them effectively. 

There are many things that might cause your child to be sad, worried or anxious, such as relationships with their friends or members of their family, negative behaviours of those around them such as fighting and aggressiveness, divorce or a death of someone they’re close to.

Children who learn healthy ways to express and cope with their feelings are more likely to;

  • Be empathic and supportive of others
  • Perform better in school and their career
  • Have more positive and stable relationships
  • Have good mental health and wellbeing
  • Display less behavioural problems 
  • Develop resilience and coping skills
  • Feel more competent, capable and confident
  • Have a positive sense of self

Here are some tips on how to encourage your child to express their feelings:

Tune into cues - Sometimes feelings can be hard to identify. Tune into your child’s feelings by looking at their body language, listening to what they’re saying and observing their behaviour. Figuring out what they feel and why means you can help them identify, express and manage those feelings better.

Behind every behaviour is a feeling - Try to understand the meaning and feeling behind your child’s behaviour. You can help your child find other ways to express that feeling once you know what is driving the behaviour.

Name the feeling - Help your child name their feelings by giving them a label. Naming feelings is the first step in helping kids learn to identify them. It allows your child to develop an emotional vocabulary so they can talk about their feelings.

Identify feelings in others – Provide lots of opportunities to identify feelings in others. You might ask your child to reflect on what someone else may be feeling. Cartoons or picture books are a great way discuss feelings and helps kids learn how to recognise other people’s feelings through facial expressions.

Be a role model - Children learn about feelings and how to express them appropriately by watching others. Show your child how you’re feeling about different situations and how you deal with those feelings.

Encourage with praise - Praise your child when they talk about their feelings or express them in an appropriate way. Not only does it show that feelings are normal and it’s ok to talk about them, it reinforces the behaviour so they are likely to repeat it.

Listen to your child’s feelings - Stay present and resist the urge to make your child’s bad feelings go away. Support your child to identify and express their feelings so they are heard. When feelings are minimised or dismissed, they will often be expressed in unhealthy ways.

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