Parenting Tips: How to Ask What Kids are Feeling

Studio 4

AMARILLO, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) —Amarillo Children’s Home Executive Director Belinda Palacios has a lot of great advice when it comes to helping our kids.

This week she’s discussing how to ask how your kids are feeling.

Our kids have been through a lot this last year and a half. From virtual school, businesses closed, activities canceled, etc. it has been quite a ride. Even though things look fairly back to normal we need to remember that the events of last year still have an affect on our kids. Kids have had an increase of depression, self-harm and suicidal behavior during this time. It’s up to us as parents/adults to get our kids to open up about their feelings so issues can be addressed. Doing so takes finesse, curiosity and at times a light touch.

· Big part of our job as parents is to provide certainty in times of uncertainty and helping kids to tolerate the uncertainty. Kids have heard their parents/ teachers, etc. discussing the dire predictions of the pandemic over the year as well as seeing headlines on tv, social media.

· Kids don’t’ need specific answers about these… sometimes here are not answers, but they do need to know they are loved and taken care of.

o Certitude that makes the ambiguity of the moment manageable.

· How to validate kid’s feelings:

o We need to teach being able to tolerate the “not knowing”. Let them explain their feelings and validate by saying things like “I have similar worries”.

o Having kids, regardless of age, involved in problem solving makes them feel empowered and like they can be part of the solution.

o Asking vague questions will get vague answers. Lead the conversation with curiosity and ask open-ended yet specific questions. (ex: what did you learn today, what was the most fun thing you did today, what was tough about today, what are you looking forward most tomorrow)

· Bedtime is not the right time to have a heavy conversation. Anxious kids can have worries throughout the night. Also, don’t talk to when they first wake up to start their day. Look for calm moments in the late afternoon/ evening for these conversations to occur.

· Help your kids name their feelings. Sometimes kids cannot articulate how they feel. With younger kids you can use feeling charts. With older kids have them give as much detail as possible to their feelings about things and if they cannot name it help them identify what it is they are feeling. Be

sure and let them know there is not a wrong or bad feeling however we have control to how we deal with those feelings.

· One final note for parents… when having these discussions do not spin out, catastrophize, or become upset. Being honest about issues is key however, always let your kids know that they are safe. Don’t let them get wrapped up in the unknown, focus on what is happening now. Let them know you will deal with tomorrow, tomorrow.

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