As we have discussed before in Parenting Playbook, it is important for children to learn about, understand, and have words for their feelings. It is also important for children to understand that feelings are temporary. This temporary state means that emotions are states of mind rather than ingrained traits.
Because the transitory nature of emotions can be a difficult concept for children, they need help in understanding that they won’t feel sad or mad or hurt or scared or lonely forever. One way to help them understand the changing nature of emotions is through the use of metaphor. One easily understandable and tangible metaphor is the weather. Rain, hail, clouds, thunderstorms, and snow are all very real, just the way emotions are real. And, just like emotions, the weather changes. The sun will be shining again.
We can also teach children that feelings come and go while we discuss feelings with them. For example, if a friend has done something that makes your child feel left out, you might say, “I’m sorry Rebecca didn’t sit with you at lunch today, and right now you feel like you don’t want to be her friend anymore.” You can then let your child respond before continuing with something like, “I hear that’s how you’re feeling right now. And how did you feel last night when she brought you that special card?” Let your child respond again. Then you can notice, “See how feelings change? Feelings change all the time, don’t they?”
The more we can help kids understand and express all their come-and-go feelings, the less likely they will get “stuck” with, or internalize, a feeling. Teach your child that feelings come and go.