As a parent, discussing tough emotions with kids can be tricky. Often kids don’t know how to identify or express what they are feeling and in the heat of the moment, both the parent and kid may be too emotional talk about the tough feelings. Using kids’ book characters with your kids is a non-escalating, fun, and effective way to help kids identify and express their feelings. Here are five simple tricks to get started:
- Choose a kids’ book with characters that experience a range of emotions.
Look for stories that depict characters who feel happy, sad, angry, frustrated, excited, and so on. This will give you and your child a chance to talk about the different emotions that people can feel.
- Read the book together and point out the emotions being experienced.
As you read, pause to ask your child how the character might be feeling and why. For example, you could say, "Look at the character’s face on this page. Do you think the character is feeling happy or sad? Why do you think that?" This conversation will bring an awareness of how faces often reveal feelings.
- Use the characters' emotions to ask about your child's own feelings.
For example, if the character in the book is feeling sad, you might say, "I see that the character is feeling sad. Have you ever felt sad before? What makes you feel sad?" This can help your child learn to recognize and label their own emotions, which can be an important step for them to identify and manage the emotions.
- Help your child express their emotions in a healthy way.
If the character in the book is feeling angry, for example, you might say, "It's okay to feel angry, but it's not okay to hit or yell when you're angry. What are some other ways you can express your anger?" Encourage your child to find healthy ways to cope with their emotions, such as talking about them, drawing, or taking a break to calm down. If the kids’ book characters chose less desirable or more desirable ways of dealing with emotions, discuss those as well.
- Use the book as a road for ongoing discussions about emotions.
After you've read the book together, take some time to talk about the emotions that the characters experienced and how the characters dealt with them. Then you can tie these observations to other books, movies, or real-life situations to talk more deeply about your kids’ own emotions.
By using kids’ book characters to discuss emotions, you can help your child learn to identify and express their feelings in a healthy way. Navigating and expressing tough emotions is an important skill that will serve your kids well as they grow and navigate the ups and downs of life. It will make your parent and kid bond stronger, too!
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