Happy Mental Wellness Month! This week, we bring you installment #2 in the series. For all of January, we’ll be show you how we at Today’s Family take steps to ensure that all of the children we care for are healthy and happy, and how you can too.
Of course, children can’t be happy all the time. Sadness can come from many sources – from bullies, or falling down, or feeling left out, or losing a game – and it’s important for our kids to know how to release these negative emotions so they can get back to their bright and cheerful selves.
In most situations, the best way to work through feelings is to talk about them. In fact, that’s one of our best ways to diffuse conflict! But when a child is sad, sometimes they don’t want to talk about it. Today, we’re going to look at a couple of ways to get your child to open up and communicate with you, so you can get those sad feelings out and those happy feelings in.
Is your child feeling ignored or left out? Sometimes our feelings don’t match with reality, and it’s good to talk through these feelings. Sit your child down and ask them how they feel. Let them express their emotion and explain to you, as best they can, where that emotion came from. Next, explain what you’re thinking – it might help your child understand the situation a bit better, and stop them from feeling sad in the future. It’s also a good idea to offer a solution, or something to look forward to.
Example: “I’m sorry you feel like I’m not playing with you, but I need to play with Sally too! You can come help us build this block tower together, or I can make one with you after I’ve finished helping Sally. Deal?”
2) Talk about their favourite things
Does your child have a favourite tv show or book series? Do the characters in their favourite media get sad? Looking at how their favourite characters deal with sadness can help your child open up about their own feelings. Usually, these characters will end up talking through their problems, which can help your child learn how to do the same.
Example: “Remember how, in Inside Out, Joy and the other feelings tried to stop Sadness from doing anything, because it made Riley sad? At the end of the movie, they all realized that it’s ok to be sad, and that it’s good to talk about your feelings. Do you want to talk about why you’re sad?”
3) Tell them a story about you
The key here is to be relatable to your children. Sometimes we forget what it’s like to be a kid, and how being an adult was seen as being completely different from being a child. A good strategy is to use a story using people they know to illustrate how to work through sadness.
Example: “When we were young, your Uncle Bob and I used to play hockey, but he always had rules that made me lose every time. I was very sad, so I talked to him and told him how I didn’t think it was fair and I didn’t like playing with him. Uncle Bob didn’t want me to be sad, so he started playing fairly, and I started winning sometimes. Talking to Uncle Bob made me feel much better. Do you want to talk about anything?”
4) Get creative
Whip out those crayons or Play-Doh and get to work. Ask your child to create some art that relates to how they are feeling. When kids get creative, they can enter a comfort zone and open up a little bit more. Sometimes, your child won’t know the words to describe how they’re feeling, so using art gives them another way to express how they feel.
Example: Ask your child to draw a picture about how they feel. Ask about what they are drawing and why they are drawing those things. Ask about specific parts of the drawing: “are those tears? Why are you crying?”
Sometimes, children don’t need you to fix things for them. Sometimes they just want to feel loved. The easiest way to show that you love your child is with a hug – lots of studies have shown that physical touch releases feel-good chemicals in the brain – but there are other ways, too!
Example: You see your child come off of the bus crying. You quickly whip up a batch of homemade chocolate chip cookies (or just get a package from the cupboard) and have a sweet and delicious after-school snack. While Today’s Family is usually all about eating healthy, we’ll make an exception if it’ll make our children feel good.
Thanks for joining us this week! Let us know how if you have any Sad-be-Gone tricks or strategies by tweeting us @TodaysFamilyOnt or getting in touch with us on Facebook, where we’re Today’s Family Early Learning and Child Care. We’d love to hear from you!
Until next time,
– Today’s Family