Written by our contributor, Ellen Perkins
It’s our job as parents to protect our children and help them grow into happy, confident adults. We make almost all the decisions for them when they are small, to ensure their safety and wellbeing. But as they grow, they will need to start making happy and safe choices for themselves, and we must teach them how to do this from a very young age.
So how to teach your child to make happy and safe choices?
A child’s body is its own powerful bio-feedback system. It tells the child what is going on inside them, which is often affected by their surrounding environment. The information a child receives from their body is communicated through feelings. For example, feeling sick, tired, scared, safe, happy, etc. It is essential to teach a child to become aware of their feelings if you want them to make good choices. It sounds simple; however, awareness of feelings is a learned skill, not an innate talent!
When you teach a child to listen to their body and show them how to respond to their feelings in a healthy way, you empower them to make choices that will keep them happy and safe. Just as each day they become more independent by learning how to feed themselves and tie their shoelaces, they also must learn about their body’s bio-feedback system so they can grow up to become fully responsible for their own safety and wellbeing.
For example, if a child is aware they are breathing fast, their heart is racing, and their hands and jaw are clenched, they can interpret those sensations and label them as anger. When they have a heightened awareness of their anger, they then have greater power to choose how to act, to release their feelings in a healthy way.
So what are the steps?
When your child is experiencing strong emotions it’s a perfect time to help them listen to their feelings and work through them. This is how:
- Become aware of their feelings.
- Connect with them through empathy.
- Encourage them to talk and listen without judgment.
- Help them name their feelings and show you understand.
- When they have calmed down, help them problem solve.
This process is called emotion coaching. When you follow these steps, you help your child develop the ability to listen to their body, name their feelings, and figure out what to do next to make themselves feel better and fix the problem. In the case of the angry child, emotion coaching will help them calm down faster, be able to talk through the problem and take action to rectify it.
By responding to their feelings in this way, you give them strategies to start taking responsibility for their own wellbeing. In essence, you empower them to create their own happiness. Using this approach regularly will help them grow into strong, confident human beings. What more could a parent ask for!
About our contributor:
Ellen Perkins is an EQ Coach and the creator of the Real Feels Flipbook of Feelings. She is mother to three girls and is passionate about helping parents discover the joy of parenting and set their child up for success.