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Helping Your Child When They Are Upset

I have been trying to learn Italian for the past four years. I know some words and phrases but when I have actually have had the opportunity to speak it in Italy or, more recently, with a woman who teaches Italian at Miami University, I freeze. The words will not come and the more pressure I feel, the less I can remember. Simply put, Italian is not my first language and in times of stress, I can’t express myself.

The same is true of children whose native language is not words. The first language of children is symbolic. Understanding this is the first step in helping our children communicate with us in times of stress, hurt, grief and pain.

When your child is upset, overtired or is dealing with stress from divorce, friend issues, death or loss, instead of asking them to, “tell you what they feel,” give them a piece of paper and crayons, or a ball of clay and say, “Show me how you feel.”

The time they spend creating helps them calm down, reflect and gives them the tools, in their native language, which they need to express themselves. Getting children to express their authentic feelings is easier than we image, especially when they can use their native language and show us.

A friend of mine, Jenny, put a picture on FB that her son had drawn after they had had an argument. It was her child holding a drawing of a rainbow. Under the rainbow he drew himself and his mom…holding hands. He showed her how he felt!

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