Learning to teach your children to express themselves and love themselves unconditionally takes time and effort, but it’s one of the most important things you can do for a child.
All of us experienced moments in childhood where we felt like our parents weren’t listening to us, didn’t understand what we were going through, or didn’t have time for us. It happens to everyone at least a few times. But did you know that ongoing failure to meet a child’s emotional needs causes a lifetime of struggle? It can result in the child growing up feeling a lack of sense of Self, not knowing who they are. And when they don’t like themselves for who they are, they often experience depression, anxiety, insomnia, and other issues in adulthood.
So how do you teach your children to love themselves? What communication strategy can you implement so your child develops self-awareness and a healthy sense of Self?
It all starts with paying attention and listening to your child.
If you notice that your child looks upset, don’t try to change the topic or do something to make their pain and unsettled feelings go away. Repeated often enough that will cause the child to grow up avoiding their emotions.
Here are 5 easy steps to follow when speaking to a child who’s upset.
1. Notice that your child is feeling an emotion.
It may be present in their body language, words, tears, or even hiding in their bedroom.
2. Ask a question.
Example “I notice that you look upset/sad/ angry/disappointed. Did something happen?”
3. Listen to your child’s response without interrupting.
Example: “The neighbor threw my ball over the fence, and I can’t get it! He did it on purpose!”
4. Help them to name the emotion that they are feeling by repeating to them a summary of what they said, including the way you interpreted that they are feeling.
Example “It wasn’t fair that the neighbor boy threw your ball over the fence. I understand that you probably feel frustrated and angry right now.”
5. Propose a possible solution and offer a life lesson with it to create structure.
Example: “You and I can go next door and get the ball. We will speak with the boy and his parents and discuss that it’s not okay to take someone else’s toy and throw it over the fence.”
Offering solutions and life lessons help teach your children how to deal with their struggles, understand their emotional response, and learn how to respond.
It shows them that the rules are equal for everyone and also apply to them.
There are some cases where there’s no solution to the issue causing the emotion. For instance, the loss or death of a loved one. In which case, #5 could be simply being with your child while they feel their feelings. Be supportive and allow the emotions to come out. Help by naming them as discussed. Be sure to tell them that what they are feeling is normal and that you love them no matter what they are feeling.
It’s important for children to see their parents experiencing emotions and naming them. You don’t have to give specific details about what is going on, but if you don’t talk about what you feel when you are upset, they won’t feel as though you can relate to their emotions.
Examples: “I’m feeling sad today. I miss my mom; I wish she were still alive.” “I feel frustrated that the chores aren’t done!” “I feel so happy today!”
In utilizing this type of communication in your day to day life with your child you will help them to grow up knowing who they are and what they’re feeling.
When you teach your children to understand emotions and love themselves unconditionally, it leads to strong self-esteem and helps them develop a healthy sense of Self.
If after reading this article you realize that maybe you didn’t develop emotional intelligence as a child, you may benefit from learning more about childhood emotional neglect and begin to practice the Sense of Self Method, restore your sense of Self, and improve your life. This is particularly important as a parent or someone who wants to have children.