Pixar Post – Inside Out characters closeup

Are your child’s emotions inside out?

Feelings. That little thing that seems to be pushed aside, and sometimes, pushed under the carpet! Sometimes, we don’t even what to think of them, and often put them in the ‘not needed’ box. The new Disney Pixar movie, Inside Out, brings a friendly reminder about just how important emotions are and how they can determine our behaviours….and perhaps we should get better at tuning into them. Sometimes this can be hard though, when we haven’t learned from a young age that it is ok to do so. Helping children from an early age to better express their emotions can help create more adaptive emotional responses and increase resilience needed for the stressors in adulthood.

So how can we help children better understand their emotions?

1. Allow your child to express their emotions, even the negative ones. By giving children permission to express how they are feeling, it can prevent them from bottling them up or internalising them. This means allowing them to say they are scared, or allowing them cry when sad. We are often quick to say, “You don’t need to cry over that”, or “don’t be scared of that”.
2. Reflect your child’s feeling back to them and validate it. For example, you could say, “I can see you are sad because……. It’s ok to feel sad”. This helps the child to realise that you understand what they might be going through and it’s ok to feel the way they are feeling.
3. Be supportive and reassuring. Let your child know you are in this together and will work out whatever the problem is together.
4. Keep your own emotions in check. Try to not appear anxious or frustrated when problem solving your child’s problems. Try to stay calm and keep a neutral voice. Your role here is to support rather than to fix the problem.
5. Do not punish children for feeling a certain way. Sometimes when a child is experiencing an intense emotion, their behaviour can become quite destructive. For example, anger can easily escalate into a temper tantrum or aggression. It is important to put in boundaries in place, so they can keep themselves safe and others around them.
6. Give your child some options to express their intense emotion in a helpful way. For example, it may be scribbling on some paper, jumping on the trampoline, or running around the backyard until the intensity reduces. Strong emotions will come to an end…eventually!
7. Teach your child some self-soothing/self-calming strategies. For example, it could be deep breathing, having a drink of water, finding a quiet space for themselves, drawing, listening to music, or talking with someone about what might be bothering them. Younger children will need to be taught these strategies, but give older children the opportunity to come up with their own ideas in what helps them feel better.
8. Have a conversation about feelings with your child. Share your feelings with your child to help them see they are not the only ones that feel that way. This also gives them permission that it is ok to talk about them, and do not need to be kept hidden and private. Talking about what the characters in books and movies might be thinking and feeling can start to open up the conversation.

For more ideas in developing your child’s emotional resilience, why not speak to one of our psychologists who can help to tailor strategies to suit your child’s own individual needs.

Author: Emma Trifiletti
Psychologist, Sensational Kids

Image courtesy of Pixar