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Ways To Help Your Child Express Their Feelings

Ways To Help Your Child Express Their Feelings

As children, many of us are taught to suppress our feelings “Be quiet and dry up your tears, it’s not a big deal”. It was preferred if kids were seen and not heard.

Denying a child the chance to express themselves sends them a very loud message that their feelings are not worthy. The child will translate this to mean that they are not worthy and this results in a whole new set of problems.

There are a number of things we can do as parents to encourage the right amount of self expression. Note that too much expression and your child will start to feel the whole world revolves around them and their problems. It’s important to strike a balance.

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1. Respond to Their Cues

When your children are very small and vulnerable the best approach to take is to respond when they call you. Many people of older generations believe you can spoil a baby when in fact there is no such thing. Your baby will learn that you are listening to them from a very young age if you learn to read the cues they send out and respond  as soon as you can. Babies who are kept to a tight schedule and are left to cry may fall into line and not cause many problems, or alternatively they may react badly and become difficult. Either way there is every possibility that they might have problems later on as they have not been listened to.

2. Tune Into Your Toddler’s Needs

Toddlers are often misunderstood and will then go on to have big tantrums that can be hard to bear. Try to stay calm during the tantrum – laugh it off. It’s just a normal phase and it’s good to know that your child feels safe enough to express themselves. If you don’t understand what your toddler is trying to tell you – have a look at their eyes. A toddlers eyes will express more than you realize and will be a major clue as to what is going on in their mind.

3. Talk About Your Own Feelings

Be a good role model and show your child how to express their feelings. Use words they will understand and tell them what you mean when you introduce a ‘feeling’ word. You could say ” I feel so sad that Daddy’s gone away for a few days – I miss him”  or “I feel angry that nobody helps with the housework – I’m tired of doing it all by myself”. Now they know what you’re feeling and why you’re feeling it. This is an excellent learning opportunity for them.

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 4. Help Them to Label Their Feelings

When your kids get frustrated or angry it’s a good time to get in there and try your best to label their feelings for them. You could even play a game of labelling expressions. You can buy these games on Amazon for a few dollars – they are a great fun way to teach expressions and feelings to kids. Then they can recognise feelings in themselves and others, thereby encouraging empathy skills.

5. Avoid Suppressing Their Feelings

This is so important. The last thing we want to do is to send the message that we don’t care about their feelings. So try to avoid saying things like ” Stop that whining, there’s always something wrong with you” or ” Don’t you dare lose your temper with me young man”. This will only result in the child forming a belief that they are not worthy of attention. This will lead to a low self esteem and a whole plethora of problems.

6. Don’t Over Do it

We want balanced, well adjusted children. We don’t want to encourage our children to only express their feelings without regard for the needs of others. Try to address their issue constructively – giving them time to explain their point of view and allowing them to cry for a reasonable amount of time (if that’s what they need). Then, close the subject – there’s no need to allow it to escalate or linger for longer than a few minutes. (Unless there has been some kind of trauma experienced).

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7. Be Approachable

Your little one’s need to know you’re there for them. Show them that you are available using your words and also your body language. Face them, get down to their level, don’t sit defensively with your arms and legs crossed – be open to whatever it is they have to say. Try not to mumble back absentmindedly when they ask you something. Stay present – in the moment with them, responding to every turn in the conversation.

8. Try Empathic Listening

Empathic listening is all about helping someone to see that you understand them and you’ve heard them. ” I see you look sad, can you tell me why” or “Jake pushed you on the back, how do you feel about that” . You’re letting them know that you are tuning into their problem and their needs. It’s so much more helpful to a child to be listened to in this way than to be yelled at or to be told “we’ll talk about it later”.

9. Show Them How To Ask For Help

It’s so important that we all learn how to ask for help in life. Show your children how it’s done. Demonstrate, with the help of another adult, how you can ask for help nicely. Your children learn from your actions and not so much from your advice.

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10. Reinforce When They Get it Right

When you catch your child expressing themselves in an appropriate manner, reinforce this with lots of praise. When your child is praised they are more likely to repeat that action.

11. Alternate Ways to Express Anger

It’s okay to feel angry but not to take it out on other people. Help your kids, especially teenagers, to express that anger through exercise – running, martial arts, swimming and so on. These are all positive ways for us all to express anger.

It takes pracitse and determination to be a good facilitator in your child’s ability to express their feelings appropriately. Stick with it by being a positive role model and stay calm and positive as much as you possibly can. This will pay off ten fold in the long term.

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Published on September 21, 2018

11 Smart Pieces of Advice to Help You Thrive as a Single Mother

11 Smart Pieces of Advice to Help You Thrive as a Single Mother

Becoming a mother is one of the most difficult challenges a woman can take on in her life. Whether this happens the “natural” way, with the help of science, or through adoption, being in charge of nurturing another human being is a herculean task to take on.

Typically, when we think about parenthood, we imagine two parents sharing the responsibility and having each other to lean on. However, according to the 2016 U.S. Census Bureau, 1 in 4 children under the age of 18 are being raised by a single mother.[1] This is a significant portion of the population that often gets overlooked.

If you are one of these mothers raising your children on your own, you are undoubtedly aware of the additional challenges that motherhood has placed upon you, including the constant struggle to find sufficient time, energy, money, and support.

For single mothers who find themselves bogged down by their daily responsibilities and struggle to stay afloat, don’t be fooled by the belief that you have to do all. It is possible to thrive and live as a single mother if you take advantage of all available resources and adjust your priorities based on your situation.

1. Find your community and ask for help

As the sole caretaker of your kids, going through the successes and struggles of parenthood can feel isolating and lonely. You have probably developed a strong sense of independence because you’ve had to go at it alone.

Being self-reliant is necessary in many situations that you have to face, but do not fool yourself into thinking that you don’t need support from others. If you have family nearby, strengthen your relationship with them by visiting and talking more often. Find time to catch up with old friends or co-workers, and don’t assume they don’t want to hang out if they are not parents themselves.

Would you prefer finding mom friends[2] who have more in common with you? Use resources like apps, Facebook groups, and community events to meet local moms in your area.

After you have established a support group that you can depend on, don’t be afraid to ask for help. It is NOT a sign of weakness or incompetency to admit you can’t do it all, and others are probably more willing to lend a hand than you think.

If you feel uncomfortable burdening others, suggest trading favors such as taking turns babysitting. Because after all, helping is each other is what community is all about.

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2. Make peace with the past

Before you can move forward, you must make peace with your past and not let it define you or rule your life. Whether your journey to single motherhood was through divorce, death, or never having a relationship the father, it is crucial that you leave behind the feelings of abandonment or betrayal you may be struggling with.

You cannot change the past and the hurt you had to endure, but you can use the strength that you gained from overcoming those obstacles to work towards making the best life for yourself and your child. Learn from the past but live in the present and look towards the future.

3. Make plans and set goals

The daily repetition of trying to balance work and home life can make you feel like you are on operating on autopilot. However, it is imperative to set goals for yourself and to keep working towards self-improvement.

In your personal life, you can set a fitness goal (train for a 5k), a reading goal (read 20 books in a year), or a travel goal (take a trip to Europe). At your job, you can set career goals such as gain leadership experience, get a promotion, or earn a degree or certificate.

Spend time creating a realistic plan to on how you can go about achieving these goals. Not only will working towards these goals make you a more well-rounded and successful person, they will bring more purpose and fulfillment to your life.

4. Look for role models

A great way to jump start your plans for the future is to find a role model or mentor who is further along in their life or career experience. This person can be a great resource when you need guidance on what types of goals to set for yourself and how to achieve them.

It’s also important to have people to turn to for encouragement during difficult seasons of life. Someone who has been through it before can provide the most genuine reassurance that tough times will get better and that staying positive is best approach.

5. Rethink your priorities

Single parents have twice as many responsibilities to take care of, so priorities and expectations must be adjusted accordingly.

Know that you are not superwoman and striving for a perfectly clean home, no dirty laundry, and home-cooked meals for your kids every day is not a reasonable expectation. It’s okay to take shortcuts sometimes, like serving your kids cereal for dinner or waiting until the next day to wash the dishes.

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Don’t compare yourself to anyone else and let go of the guilt that you feel for being the only parent that your kids can count on. Give yourself a break and don’t sweat the small stuff.

6. Make time for me time

Even though it can be difficult to find, making time for yourself is critical to maintaining your sanity and well-being. Without a built-in partner to take over, finding time to be away from the kids must be done intentionally and planned in advance.

If you are sharing custody, use the time away from your kids not only doing productive things but also making sure you are taking care of yourself. Sleep, exercise, and balanced diet are not things that can get pushed to the bottom of the priority list. Also make time for fun activities, such as hobbies and creative outlets.

Even though being a mother is the most important job you have, don’t let it be the only thing that defines you. Time for yourself is more difficult to find if you are the sole caretaker of your kids.

Use the resources that you have to devote time to self-care, and you and your kids will thank you for it in the long run.

7. Stay organized

With so many things to juggle, great organizational skills are an absolute must in order to keep everything moving smoothly. Use apps such as Mint for your finances, Mealime for meal planning, and Cozi as a family organizer for everything from appointments and shopping lists to after school activities.

Maintain constant contact if you are sharing custody so that it is clearly communicated who will be responsible for what when it comes to your kids. Follow consistent routines in the morning and nighttime so that your kids also know what to expect on a daily basis.

8. Be flexible (Don’t be a control freak)

Although it is important to be prepared and stay organized, things don’t always go according to plan.

When kids get sick and have to stay home or babysitters cancel at the last minute, allow for flexibility by having a contingency plan for childcare and with your employer.

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For example, make a list of people you can call when you need last minute childcare, or talk to your boss in advance about working from home when emergencies come up.

Most of all, don’t let unexpected changes stress you out and ruin your day.

9. Learn to say no (Don’t feel guilty)

Single mothers have limitations in time, energy and resources that families with two parents wouldn’t be able to understand. Because of these circumstances, it’s important you let go of feelings of guilt and stop trying to do everything and be everywhere.

You don’t have to say yes to every single birthday party your child is invited to. Your kids don’t have to be involved in sports and extracurricular activities every night of the week.

Limit the things you do to only the ones that are the most enjoyable and meaningful for you and your family. Doing more things does not make you a better mother; simply a more tired one.

10. Live within your means

When you have to raise your family on a single income, budgeting and spending within your means becomes more important than ever.

If you have outstanding debt that is accruing interest, make it a priority to pay those off as soon as possible. Outlining a budget is the best way to visualize how much money is being spent every month on various things and what is left over.

Find ways to save money on the necessities by looking for sales at the grocery store, buying some things secondhand, planning out meals.

After the necessary bills are paid, determine how much can be spent on luxury items such as eating out, vacations, and going to the movies.

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Don’t let finances be a source of anxiety for you and your family. Keep your bank account in good shape while teaching your kids how to spend money responsibly at the same time.

11. Spend quality time with your kids

The time you spend with your kids is so precious and much more limited as a single mother. Make the time that you spend with your kids count.

Rather than sitting in front of the TV, take them on fun and budget-friendly outings to the park, the playground, or a museum. Use meal times as the perfect excuse to ask them about what they are learning in school and the friends they spend time with.

When your kids ask you to play with them, look at it as a privilege and an opportunity to bond with them, rather than a distraction or waste of time. Be present when you are with them, with no work or multitasking on your mind. Your relationship with your kids will absolutely reap the benefits.

Final thoughts

Being a single mother is not an easy job. That’s why it’s important to use all the resources available to you in order to make this job a little bit easier.

Using technology, an organization system and a supportive community are just a few examples of things you should utilize to your benefit. It’s also important to shift your mindset and be more practical when it comes to things like priorities and finances.

Most of all, don’t forget about your own self care. Only when you take care of yourself can you best take care of the people you love.

Single mothers are some of the most hard-working people out there, and you deserve to have a happy and fulfilling life.

Featured photo credit: Alvaro Reyes via unsplash.com

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