This week marks Children's Mental Health Week, an awareness week organised by mental health charity Place2be. The theme is Express Yourself, which is such a great theme and easy to explore at home with your own children. Supporting our children to express themselves involves both implementing parenting strategies and developing an awareness around why it's an important area of emotional health.
Emotional Expression is key to emotional health and yet traditionally, children's voices have been quietened when it comes to showing their feelings. Generational patterns have created adults who feel discomfort when confronted with an overwhelmed child, though things are changing rapidly in the modern parenting world. Many of us are more aware of the importance of emotional health and are trying to break those old patterns. But, it's tough. Even though we KNOW emotional expression is important, holding space for it can be HARD! The crucial thing here is to know why it's important, which will support empathy and how to approach it in a balanced way which works for parent as well as child.
When we allow our children to express themselves emotionally, we support their brains to process emotions, make sense of them and prevent them becoming "stuck" in their feelings. Unprocessed feelings can become suppressed and rear themselves throughout our lives when we are triggered. Ironically, it's those unprocessed and unexpressed feelings from our own childhood (because they were suppressed by parenting approaches) that are triggered by our own children's big emotions and can cause the cycle to repeat.
So, how can we work on making the changes to allow emotional expression? Well, first of all it takes a parenting mindset shift. All feelings are OK. Secondly, it needs a realistic expectation of how emotional expression should look in your household. The younger the child, the more understanding and support they will need around their ability to regulate themselves when expressing their emotions. It also means being kind to yourself; you're human and it won't always be easy to hold space for the big feelings of a dysregulated child! Finally, it takes regular role modelling of emotional expression and implementing activities into your family life that encourage children to creatively express themselves, releasing feelings and promoting communication with you.
Here's a few ideas for ways you can encourage your child to express themselves. You can download this prompt sheet for free! Just click on the image.
It's important to recognise that holding space for emotional expression does not mean condoning unacceptable behaviours. Over time you can guide your child to express themselves in healthy ways. These phrases will encourage your child to open up and talk about how they feel:
We've got some great resources for young children that will encourage them to express themselves and open up conversations about how they feel in our shop. Click here to see our range!
Hey! I'm the founder, creator and voice of Ink and Scribbles. Sharing thoughts on child well-being and parenting that are based on my teaching and parenting experience, and NLP learning.