Talking to Kids about Emotions and How to Understand Them

One of the reasons I wanted to start 2 B Continued, was to help  kids to understand their emotions, and also, to help parents to better understand their kid’s mental health and how to nurture it.

I’m sure most of us remember being told, when we were upset as kids, to just suck it up, get over it, or sadly, if you were a boy, that boys don’t cry. Stigmas such as these  have negatively impacted children for many years. In most cases these children carried over the mental health issues into adulthood.

Both myself, my mother and my son’s bonus mother, face mental health challenges daily. Over the years I have learned to be open and honest about those issues with my son. Often I have been questioned by others, because, they believe that kids are too young to understand such complex issues.

But talking to children about mental health from such a young age has its advantages. It helps them to better understand their emotions, as well as helping them to become more resilient. It also helps to reduce the stigma surrounding mental health. Being open and discussing mental health challenges teaches kids the importance of looking  after their mental health just as much as their physical health.

I can’t actually say that enough.

For way too long we’ve been focused on our physical pain alone and not on our mental and emotional
wellbeing as well. In the last five years mental health awareness has come a long way for which I’m thankful,
but we need to keep working on raising awareness and educating everyone about mental health.

Would you tell someone that has cancer to just get over it and suck it up, to just think positively and smile? Would you play the compare the pain game with them?  Say things like “there is someone else out there that has it so much worse than you?”  Of course you wouldn’t.

Our physical and mental health go hand in hand. We need to make sure to work just as hard to nurture our mental wellbeing whether as a child or an adult.

You might be wondering how you can talk to your kids and help them to understand what they’re feeling?

Here are my top tips:

*Talk to your children during the day  about how they’re feeling.
Acknowledge how you are feeling and name your emotions. For example “I’m sad because I lost my favourite ring”. Make sure you let them know that it is normal to feel a range of emotions at differing times and in different situations.

*It’s also important to talk to your children about how their emotions can present as a physical symptom.

 For example, when feeling sad does that make them feel tired or when they’re happy, does that give
them butterflies in their tummies?

Ask them what emotion they might be feeling when they can’t stop grinning or what emotion they might be
feeling when they’re frowning.

*You can help your children be aware of mental health by talking about it as a normal part of everyday life.

Just as you talk to them about eating vegetables to keep their body healthy and strong, share with them similar ways so that they can be mentally healthy.

*Give them tools.

Teach them to practise being mindful. Develop routines such as bedtime routines.

*Give them a setting to talk.

Have family discussions at the dinner table that include gratitude and what the most challenging emotions of the day were.

Help your children to understand what emotions they are feeling and why, and then they will them begin to see the connection between how they feel in their mind and in their body. This open communication about mental health can help to reduce feelings of stigma and judgement about
mental illness as they age. This can help them and those around them to develop positive mental well being
and encourage them to seek help with regard to their mental health should they ever need to.


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