How to Help Children Who Have Bottled-Up Emotions
Have you ever asked your child about their day and received nothing but a shrug? Or how about a one-word response? Good. Fine. The older children get, the less interested they are in having these conversations with their parents. This lack of expression gradually transforms into bottled-up emotions.
It can be difficult to get your child to talk about anything, let alone their emotions, even if they are passionate about it. You don’t want it to feel like you’re interrogating them, but you do want to know how they’re doing in general!
Maybe you don’t know what to say at all. Your child comes in looking depressed, and you’re not sure how you’re going to cheer them up.
Kids frequently want to talk to us, but we unknowingly close that comfort veil with them at some point. We failed to listen properly, began lecturing them, and dismissed their feelings.
We can encourage our children to express themselves by changing the way we speak and listen to them. This is how!
1. Take the Time to Listen
Listening may appear simple, but it is the most important thing you can do as a parent with children who tend to bottle up their emotions. When your children do decide to speak up, make sure you’re prepared to truly listen!
When a child is telling us how they feel, we often want to jump in with our own thoughts, opinions, and anecdotes. Resist the urge to speak and instead just listen. You’ll have time to speak after they’ve finished speaking.
Silence can be unsettling at times. Wait it out if you believe they have more to say. They will eventually express their thoughts aloud. Children also take longer to express their emotions.
Taking the time to simply listen to your children demonstrates your respect for them. They’ll realize you genuinely care about what they think and how they feel!
2. Maintain Your Cool
The likelihood of a child talking to you about their feelings is greatly influenced by how you react to situations. Keep your cool and remain calm and interested whenever they talk (about anything).
Look confident when they express their feelings. Children will avoid talking if they believe it will worry them or make them uncomfortable. You can even say it directly! “I’m sure you did your best.”
Don’t take anything they say personally, even if it involves you. Coming to you demonstrates that they want to make things better. Never blame them or become defensive because they did not come to you sooner.
Avoid phrases such as “You don’t have to feel this way” or “Don’t let this get to you.” Instead, validate their emotions and assure them that whatever they are experiencing is completely normal.
If you need help with yelling or are feeling overwhelmed with parenting and life, these resources can be of assistance and contain a wealth of practical advice.
3. Avoid Offering Advice
This may go against your instincts, but avoid giving advice unless they specifically request it.
Children, like adults, sometimes just need to vent and have a safe place to express their emotions. When children express sadness, anger, or other emotions, they rarely seek advice. The most effective response is to validate their feelings. Tell them it’s all right to feel this way.
If they ask for assistance, provide it. Remember to be gentle and assist them in finding a solution on their own. This improves their problem-solving abilities!
Even if a child did not seek advice, you can encourage them to come up with their own solution once they have finished speaking. This is more effective than simply handing it to them.
Leading them down the right path rather than providing a direct ride benefits them far more than your advice.
4. Select the Appropriate Time and Location
It is not always appropriate to express one’s emotions. For example, if you notice your child is upset when you pick them up from the car, you should wait until you get home to bring it up.
To be vulnerable, children must be in a quiet, safe environment. This is frequently done at home and in their room.
Children are unlikely to want to speak in front of a large group of people. Rather than discussing it in front of their siblings, wait until you have some time alone together to bring it up.
5. Allow your child some space.
We sometimes need time to decompress when we have bottled-up emotions. If emotions are running high, it may be necessary to pause for a moment before speaking.
We must accept that our children are not always ready to talk about it. We should never try to force them to talk about their feelings. This decreases their desire to share their true feelings and reduces their chances of coming to you on their own in the future.
6. Children must believe that their parents respect their privacy and space.
They may need to process their emotions on their own. The younger we are, the more powerful our emotions are.
It takes time to understand exactly what we’re feeling, and children have a more difficult time putting those feelings into words right away. When they’re ready, they’ll open up to you about their emotions.
7. Feelings for Them
Children must understand that they are not alone or isolated in their feelings. Who better than their parents to tell them they’ve been through something similar? Kids have a difficult time picturing their parents as children and forget that they, too, have been through it all.
When a child has finished speaking, tell them about a similar situation you’ve been through. Tell them exactly what happened while also emphasizing the positive aspects.
What was the end result of this experience? What did you take away from your experience?
This also works with kids who are unable to express their emotions. If you have any idea what might have happened, you can tell your story first. Then you can ask if they’d like to share their own experiences or feelings. If they say no, you should leave.
8. Utilize Media
We don’t always have a story to go with what our child is going through. This is where the media comes in handy!
Children’s programming has evolved into excellent tools for discussing difficult topics in a way that children can understand.
You’ve probably seen more episodes of their favorite TV show than you wish you had. This also implies that you are as familiar with the show as they are.
Also read: 11 Practical Advice for Parents of Strong-Willed Children
Use these people in their lives to help them share similar expressions. “Do you remember when Elsa felt she couldn’t tell Anna the truth?” for example.
This can include people they admire on social media, such as YouTube, or even their toys. Make use of what you have on hand to help you create examples and scenarios that your child can relate to.
9. Utilize Art as a Tool
Art therapy is a very dependable tool, especially if your child is creative! Encourage your child to concentrate on something creative. This could be:
- Learning to play an instrument
- Having fun with play-doh
- Putting a puzzle together
This helps them to forget about whatever is bothering them and feel more at ease.
You can participate in this activity as a parent. This allows you to communicate with them without using words. It demonstrates to them that you will be there for them when they are ready. It is not always necessary to express your support verbally.
Your child may start a conversation about their bottled-up emotions on their own during this creative session. You can also gently inquire if they have anything they’d like to discuss. You can also do what is listed above and share your experience with a similar situation.
10. When to Seek Assistance
All of the preceding advice applies to children who are experiencing typical emotions. We all get down in the dumps from time to time. However, if your child has erratic emotions or is consistently sad, this could be cause for concern.
Excessive crying, physical injuries, or even suicidal ideation could be symptoms of clinical depression.
In this case, seek professional assistance, beginning with your child’s primary care physician or a licensed pediatric therapist.
The Bottom Line
You may find that no matter what you do, your children will not open up about their suppressed emotions. Their lips can remain sealed no matter how many tips and tricks you employ.
In this situation, the best advice is to persevere and be patient. Your child needs to know that you care, which means that you will never give up.
Continue to ask them how they are, inquire about their day, and spend quality time with them. When they feel safe and comfortable, they will eventually open up and share their emotions with you.