Expressing Feelings: Tips and Tricks for Children and Adults
If you are parenting a child with special needs, it is no secret that expressing feelings in ways that work can be tricky. This is not only challenging for our special children, but it also requires focus and attention on our part as parents, grandparents, teachers, etc.
Here are a few of the tips I’ve learned as both a mother and an SLP. Use these and you will revolutionize the way you deal with all types of people in your life, including your children, your spouse/partner, your co-workers and even people you encounter outside of your family and friends.
1. Listen carefully and reflect back what you heard to show that you are listening and caring. For example, “That makes you really angry!” “You wish I would stop.” If you are correct, the person will feel validated. If you are not correct, they may tell you exactly what they’re feeling.
2. Give choices when possible. Children are often asking for limits. If you provide structure and clear guidelines, they will feel safe. “I know you really want that cookie, but right now we are eating dinner. If you choose to eat your dinner, then you choose to have a cookie when you’re done. If you choose not to eat your dinner, you choose no cookie. What do you choose?” See How to Talk so Your Kids Will Listen and Listen so Your Kids Will Talk by Faber and Mazlich. Note: This book changed my life!!!
3. Remain calm at all costs. Jumping into someone else’s emotions is not beneficial to either of you. Stay off the “Bully Triangle”. You cannot help someone else to calm down and express themselves if you are raising your voice and being demanding. (www.lynneforrest.com/)
4. Give up being right. Commenting in ways that show you are hearing the other person can be beneficial. “I understand how you must feel.” “That hurt your feelings.”
5. Do not defend your position. Remember the saying “I’d rather be loving than right.” Apologize for what you were perceived to have done even if you don’t believe that is what you did.
6. Use visual representations of feelings to help children to understand the feelings. I use Feeling Faces for the basic feelings as well as The Incredible Five Point Scale by Kari Dunn-Buron (www.socialthinking.com) or Visual Strategies by Linda Hodgdon (www.usevisualstrategies.com)
7. Be calm now and discuss the situation later. Most people find it difficult to identify their feelings or discuss why they are upset while they are in the middle of a tantrum. Wait until the upset is over before discussing the causes and possible solutions. Social Stories by Carol Gray [email protected] or just simple drawings about what happened can be very helpful following an upsetting situation. You may need to wait several hours after the incident.
8. Help others discover their emotional state by using language that references feelings. The Zones of Regulation “Looks like you’re in the red zone!” “Your face is red and you are breathing heavily.” Or “You seem calm and happy.” “You are sitting quietly and smiling!”
9. Get help if things are not improving. It is okay to reach out for help from a play therapist, psychologist, social worker, counselor, or friend.
10. Keep smiling and keep your sense of humor!
Image courtesy of ©Marzanna Syncerz photoxpress.com
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This post originally appeared on our January/February 2013 Magazine