Why is it that if a child hits their head or breaks a limb we are immediate in our response to treat the injury and take away their pain, but when a child tells us they are feeling sad we shrug it off and tell them to “get over it”?
Why, when the stigma around mental illness is slowly starting to retract and we, as a society, are becoming more educated, aware, and empathetic towards mental illness, do we still struggle to recognize and accept that mental illness is an issue that children face just as seriously as adults do?
This is something that needs to change – something that we need to change.
Children often experience intense emotions, both positive and negative, but rely on adults to help them manage such emotions. Without this support and guidance, such intense emotions can become out of control and can have lasting impacts on a variety of current and future aspects of the child’s development.
If we want our children to grow into mature, understanding, caring, and confident individuals, it is important that we understand why helping kids cope with negative feelings and emotions is so important and how we can do so.
Their Emotional Well-Being Is Just As Important As Their Physical Well-Being
Emotional development throughout childhood essentially paves the foundation for how that child will grow to interact in, understand, and build relationships throughout the rest of their lives. This can impact their future relationships with family members, friends, peers, teachers, partners, and even strangers.
As we mentioned before, children often experience intense emotions – and not always positive ones. It’s extremely common for children to experience emotions such as fear, anger, anxiety, and sadness.
Without the ability to control and manage these types of emotions, they can be as damaging to a child’s current and future wellbeing as any physical injury can be.
If negative emotions, like fear, anger, or sadness, are ignored by us, the child’s support system, for too long, they can become more intense and less stable over time, leading to a variety of mental and emotional problems such as: moodiness, aggression, anxiety, and even depression.
Common Mistakes Parents Make
Of course, no parent wants their child to go through such emotional problems. Sometimes, however, our attempts to help, despite our best intentions, may actually cause more harm than good.
In particular, there are three common reactions we, as parents, typically have when our children relay to us that they are experiencing negative emotions. These reactions may be instinctive, but we should try our best to avoid them.
Often times we fail to take our children’s emotions seriously. We often give the impression, even if unintentionally, that how they are feeling is silly. We may take notice of their sadness or anger but wave it off as being dramatic or as a way to get attention.
In some cases, parents may lead the child to believe that having these negative emotions is a bad thing, and may even punish them for feeling as such even if no misbehavior is present.
Some parents even believe that ignoring such feelings will teach the child that negative emotions will not get them what they want and that this lack of response will simply make the feelings go away.
What You Can Do To Help
Emotional coaching is a great way to show support to your children, especially in terms of helping them properly cope with negative emotions that may not fully understand or be able to manage on their own.
Some ways in which you can offer emotional support to your child(ren) are:
- Listening to them when they express their emotions to you
- Ensuring that they know that how they are feeling is normal and okay, and that it can even be healthy
- Empathize with them and let them know that you understand why they feel the way they do
- Work together with them to find the cause of their negative feelings and to help them find solutions
Do The Best You Can
Parenting is not easy.
Every one of us is bound to make mistakes – we all do certain things that, while the good intention was there, ends up making things worse. It’s all part of the parenting game.
Every child is different, and so figuring out how to support your child in a manner that resonates with them will take a few rounds of trial and error, to be sure. The important thing is that you keep trying, and most importantly, always ensure that your child feels loved.
Do you have any additional tips for helping children cope with negative emotions?