How to Get Kids to Express Their Feelings

When your child is able to talk to you or someone she trusts about the way she is feeling, she is more likely to feel better, according to KidsHealth 3. Even if she’s unsure how to put a certain emotion into words, her body language, facial expressions and behavior can help clue others into her changing feelings. By recognizing her emotions and letting her know you are always ready to talk, you can help her associate words with feelings and help her learn to communicate those to others.

Be a good example of how to properly express your emotions for your kids, advises Kids Matter, part of the Suburban Ramsey Family Collaborative. Express your feelings with words instead of actions so your kids will learn to do the same. For example, if you are excited about your promotion at work, tell your kids how happy you are and how excited you feel. Alternately, use your words in a calm manner to express your feelings if you're upset or disappointed about something 3. This helps them understand that feelings are normal for everyone and that expressing them with words is a good way to feel better and let others in on their feelings.

Give your kids the words to use to describe their feelings, advises Zero to Three, an online resource for parents. For example, when your preschooler is angry because her brother won’t play with her, tell her that. Say, “Right now you are angry because you want to play with your older brother and he wants to play with his own friends.” The more you provide her with the correct term for her feelings, the better able she is to communicate her feelings to you with her vocabulary instead of her actions.

Acknowledge your child’s feelings, even if you can't understand them, advises Kids Matter. For example, if your child tells you he is scared because he’s afraid a dinosaur is going to come through his window in the middle of the night and take him to his secret dinosaur cave, use empathy rather than scorn. Tell him you understand he’s afraid, and that it’s OK to be afraid. Then explain to him that dinosaurs are extinct and absolutely will not get him. When you tell your child that his feelings aren’t valid, he might shut down and refrain from talking to you about them in the future 3.

Tell your child you are proud of her as a way of encouraging her when she uses words to express her emotions. This could help her remember how good it felt to say she was angry rather than act on her anger, prompting her to express herself verbally rather than physically in the future.