"It's not so bad!" "You're fine!"
"Forget about it!" "Don't be so dramatic!"
How many times have you been tempted to say those things to your kids when they're upset, whiny or otherwise expressing an uncomfortable or strong feeling? Maybe you've already said them, or still say them now. Most of us have. Let's face it, sometimes we get annoyed beyond belief by the behaviors of our little ones. Recognizing this, and understanding why it might be happening can be helpful.
But helping our kids learn how to identify and manage those uncomfortable or strong feelings is just as important of a parental responsibility as teaching our kids how to cross the road safely. When we minimize our child's feelings, it leaves our child to his own devices to try to figure out how to manage those feelings. Sometimes, the way he or she manages them may not be the most advantageous. Hitting, pushing, foot stomping, slamming things, breaking things. We can all think of adults who may still engage in these behaviors when faced with strong emotions.
Here are five reasons NOT to minimize your child's feelings:
1. It sends the message: Don't TRUST your feelings.
He feels one way, but you tell him the feeling isn't really what he thinks it is. In the eyes of the child, you know everything. He begins to doubt his own ability to identify the feeling. Being able to identify feelings is one of the first steps towards learning how to manage them, which is a major building block of social-emotional development.
2. It causes the child to become confused.
Your child may begin to wonder what he is feeling, if you're telling him he's really okay, when he is actually feeling pretty rotten. This can be very confusing for a child.
3. It leads the child to believe that his feelings are misleading and inaccurate.
If your child gets the idea that he's way off-base identifying his own feelings, he may stop trying. He may "freeze" his feelings and stuff them down, but they are bound to come out in some behavioral manner.
4. It creates the belief for your child that his feelings are not acceptable.
Since he is being told that "it's not that big of a deal" or he needs to "get over it", he may get the impression (whether you verbalize it or not), that his feelings are just not okay. My mind wanders to the numerous adults with whom I've worked who have tried, unsuccessfully, to continue to drown out their true feelings with substances or behaviors that are self-destructive. Often, these folks have said, "I just can't handle the anger, the sadness, the stress. This (alcohol, food, shopping) is the only thing that makes me feel good." Many of these adults were never taught how to successfully handle strong emotions.''
5. It robs your child of learning alternatives to handling BIG emotions.
Big emotions are tough for kids. They don't possess the life skills or the benefit of experience to handle these topsy-turvy feelings. They look to you to teach them how to manage the feelings, so they can get on with their day.
Check out our very own resource to help kids deal with feelings. You can instantly download our workbook, Fun with Feelings: Emotions Matter. Find us on facebook, twitter or Pinterest. If your child has BIG anger issues, download our Anger Toolbox For Kids (free MP3 and handouts).