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Parenting With Intention: Raising an Emotionally Aware Child

Emotions and Children

**This is Part 2 of Parenting with Intention; a 3 part-blog series by Aika Erlandson, LMFT-Associate at Austin STRONG: Relationship Building Center**

Tips for Acknowledging your Child’s Emotions

As your child learns to walk and talk, they will experience more of life, which also means an increased opportunity to feel more emotions. What your child needs the most from you is to help them figure out what emotions they are experiencing, why they are feeling the way they do, and what they can do with emotions as they arise. Although it may not feel good as a parent to see your child experience strong or unpleasant emotions, it is important as a parent to normalize emotions of anger, jealousy and/or sadness; because as humans, we all feel these emotions! Dr. Jonice Webb indicates that emotional neglect, which she describes as, “a parent’s failure to respond enough to a child’s emotional needs,” is the most common form of abuse that goes undetected and unnoticed.

If their emotions were not validated or they were taught to suppress emotions in the home, children may grow up having difficulties building trust and empathy around their own emotions. This can also lead to discomfort with other’s emotions and an inability to connect and empathize with others who are feeling strong or unpleasant emotions. An inability to have a healthy relationship with one's own emotions can have a detrimental impact on any relationship in which open expression of emotions is needed to maintain and secure the emotional bond; this includes platonic as well as romantic relationships. Not knowing how to navigate their own emotions as children may lead people to be unable to express themselves fully as adults which can also lead to depressive or anxious symptoms in the future, such as feeling disconnected, unfulfilled, fearful, alone, or empty.

To make it easier for you to know how to acknowledge your child’s emotions, practice and follow these simple steps the next time your child is feeling strong, negative emotions:

  1. I see you are (behavior)

  2. Are you (feeling)?

  3. I can see you are (feeling).

  4. What are you (feeling) about?

  5. So you’re (feeling) about (source). Is that right?

  6. What do you want?

  7. What have you tried?

  8. How well has it worked?

  9. What are you willing to try?

  10. How, when, and where are you going to do it?

  11. Would you let me know how it works out?

Here is an example of how your interaction may turn out

Parent: I see you are crying.

Child: nods

Parent: Are you sad?

Child: nods

Parent: I can see that you are sad. What are you sad about?

Child: My friends are not playing with me.

Parent: So you’re sad about your friends not playing with you. Is that right?

Child: nods.

Parent: What do you want?

Child: For my friends to include me.

Parent: What have you tried?

Child: I asked them if I can play with them.

Parent: How well has it worked?

Child: They said they already had enough people in their game

Parent: What are you willing to try?

Child: I can try to find other friends to play with…

Parent: Who are you going to ask?

Child: I can ask Michelle and Sarah over there

Parent: Would you let me know how it works out?

Child: nods and runs off to her friends.

By following these steps that would only take you about 5 minutes, you can help your child know that it’s okay to acknowledge and experience the emotions they are feeling, and to figure out what they can do to better the situation. So when your child(ren) get upset about the presents they received or didn’t receive over the holidays, follow these steps to show that you see them and the emotions they feel, and that you are there to support them in figuring out what they can do about the situation!

**This is Part 2 of Parenting with Intention; a 3 part-blog series by Aika Erlandson, LMFT-Associate at Austin STRONG: Relationship Building Center**

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