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Why Children’s Feelings Should Not Be Minimized: 5 Reasons

“You’re okay!”  “See – it was easy!”  “This isn’t a big deal!”  Phrases such as these might be at the tip of your tongue (or may even at times pass your lips) when your children are upset, whining, or expressing other uncomfortable or strong feelings.  I know that despite my best efforts, phrases such as these seem to have popped right out of my mouth when I’ve felt frustrated, tired, or annoyed with a situation with my boys.  But as parents, and by using phrases such as these, we’re just trying to teach our children resilience; after all, the real world isn’t easy, right?  Actually, using phrases such as these actually minimize our children’s feelings, leaving them to feel confused or helpless.  Minimizing children’s feelings may also lead them to try to figure out how to manage their emotions on their own, sometimes leading a child to hit, push, break things, or engage in other behaviors such as drugs and alcohol.   In the post “5 Reasons Not to Minimize Your Child’s Feelings” Wendy Young, LMSW, BCD of Kidlutions  offers up five reasons NOT to minimize your child’s feelings:

1. It sends a message to your child: “Don’t trust your feelings.”

“He feels one way, but you tell him the feeling isn’t really what he thinks it is.  In the eyes of the child, you know everything. He begins to doubt his own ability to identify the feeling.  Being able to identify feelings is one of the first steps towards learning how to manage them, which is a major building block of social-emotional development.”

2. It confuses your child.

“Your child may begin to wonder what he is feeling if you’re telling him he’s really okay, when he is actually feeling pretty rotten.  This can be very confusing for a child.”

3. It leads the child to believe his feelings are misleading and inaccurate.

“If your child gets the idea he’s way off-base identifying his own feelings, he may stop trying.  He may “freeze” his feelings and stuff them down, but they are bound to come out in some behavioral manner. “

4. It creates the belief for your child that his feelings are not acceptable.

“Since he is being told “it’s not that big of a deal” or he needs to “get over it”, he may get the impression (whether you verbalize it or not), his feelings are just not okay.  My mind wanders to the numerous adults with whom I’ve worked who have tried, unsuccessfully, to continue to drown out their true feelings with substances or behaviors that are self-destructive.  Often, these folks have said, ‘I just can’t handle the anger, the sadness, the stress.  This (alcohol, food, shopping) is the only thing that makes me feel good.’  Many of these adults were never taught how to successfully handle strong emotions.”

5. It robs your child of learning alternatives to handling BIG emotions.

“Big emotions are tough for kids.  They don’t possess the life skills or the benefit of experience to handle these topsy-turvy feelings.  They look to you to teach them how to manage the feelings, so they can get on with their day. “

In her post, Ms. Young gives links to additional resources to help you work with your children on managing their emotions instead of minimizing them.  Another fantastic resource is the Kidtelligent Assessment!   The results of the Kidtelligent Assessment provides you with targeted tips and advice for dealing with challenges and situations that are unique to your child’s personality and learning style. To learn more about Kidtelligent, go to www.kidtelligent.com, and follow us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/Kidtelligent.

Sarah is a guest blogger for Kidtelligent.  She is a soccer-playing, travel-loving, poetry-writing wife to a “go-getter” husband and mother to two high-spirited, sweet, and enthusiastic boys who have high-spirited emotions.