Learn how to focus on child’s feelings

Published 7:01 am Sunday, November 15, 2015

QUESTION: How do I focus on my child’s feelings in difficult situations?

ANSWER: If we want our children to be responsive rather than reactive in difficult situations, it’s important that we focus on their feelings and then work with them on dealing with the situation. Here are some ways to first address feelings:

Be sympathetic: “I understand how you are feeling; I have felt that too. It hurts, doesn’t it?”

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Validate feelings: “It makes sense to feel that way. If it happened to me, I would probably feel the same way.”

Identify feelings: “Sounds like you are surprised.” “That must have felt awkward.” “Are you feeling confused?”

Listen intently: Make direct eye contact and listen for what is going on in your child’s life. Listen as if it was your best friend talking with you. ‘I’m listening. What you’re sharing with me is important.”

Be curious: “That’s interesting. I’d like to know more about how you’re feeling.” “Tell me more.” “How will you handle that if it happens again?”

Affirm feelings: “You’re feeling really lonely.” “I can see how disappointed you are.”

Invite expression of feelings: “How you feel is important.”

Acknowledging your child’s feelings often results in your child’s visible relief. When you build closeness by focusing on feelings, you will find that you have much greater influence in your child’s thoughts and decisions.

If you would like to talk about the challenges in raising children, call the toll-free Parent WarmLine at 1-888-584-2204/Linea de Apoyo at 1-877-434-9528. For free emergency child care call Crisis Nursery at 1-877-434-9599. Check out www.familiesandcommunities.org and books, CDs and DVDs on positive parenting at the PRC Specialty Library (105 First Street SE, Austin).