Try this one little trick when your child is sad or worried

Rhys is a really sensitive child.

You might not think it sometimes, when you see him running around, doing karate chops and playing pokemon.

But he really is sensitive.  He takes things to heart and we’re starting to realise that he worries a lot.

There have been a few occasions recently where he’s been worried or sad about something.  And it’s taken quite a long time to get him to talk to us about what’s on his mind.

Part of the problem is the fact that he’s only 5.  I don’t think he always fully understands what he’s feeling.  And he often doesn’t have the ability to express those feelings to us.

Once we’ve worked out what the issue is though, we’re still faced with a problem.  How do we help him feel better?  

I’m finding that this little bit of psychology can help.

Try this one little trick when your child is sad or worried

What we do is simply try to mirror his words and feelings.

Sometimes we can ‘fix’ the issue and quite easily make things better.  For example, he was worried about sleeping over at his grandparents’ house the other day.  And we worked out that he just wanted some of his things with him to help him feel more relaxed.  So he went off with his book and the duvet off his bed, nice and happy.  Problem solved.

Other times though we can’t, and shouldn’t try to, just ‘fix’ things.

Sometimes people just need to be heard.  Children especially need to know that their feelings are valid and that we understand how they’re feeling.

So next time your child is sad or worried about something, try reflecting their thoughts and feelings back to them.  It’s all part of active listening, and here’s how you can go about it:

 

  • Rephrase what they’re telling you.  So don’t just echo back exactly what they say to you, rephrase it slightly.  If they tell you they’re sad because their friend wouldn’t play with them at school, you could say back, “so you’re upset because they wanted to play with someone else” or “so you’re feeling sad because you were lonely and left out at playtime”.

 

  • Let them talk.  Try not to say too much yourself, but encourage them to keep going with simple acknowledgements like “oh really?”, “ok”, or “I understand”.  If you need to ask them questions to get more information from them then try asking open-ended questions, rather than questions that will just give you a yes or no answer.  Or try leading questions like “could you tell me more about it?” or “then what happened?”

 

  • Give their feelings a name.  Sometimes young children will have these big feelings, but they might not know how to explain them.  You can start conversations with them by naming the possible feelings.  So say something like “you look like you’re feeling sad”, or “it seems like you might be feeling anxious about… “

 

  • Try not to just placate them or dismiss their feelings.  It’s so tempting to say “oh don’t worry about that”.  Or even “don’t be silly, there’s nothing to worry about”, but these things won’t help at all!  Things that might seem silly or inconsequential to us can be huge to children.  So they need to be listened to and acknowledged, not just dismissed.

 

It’s really not easy getting children to open up and talk about how they’re feeling.

And, honestly, I do worry about how to keep communication going in the teenage years.  We’ve got a while before we get to that stage luckily, and I’m really trying to lay the ground work now.

Making sure I work out the best way to talk to both of my children so that they know I’m really listening to them.  I think this advice will really help with that, and I really hope it helps some other parents out there.

Please do let me know if you do this with your children, and if you think it helps.

 

Keep Calm and Carry On Linking Sunday
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34 Comments

  1. Lydia C. Lee 04/03/2017 / 10:12 pm

    I think it’s really hard to understand anxiety if you don’t have it. Not dismissing it is important, as is not feeding it. So many fine lines to walk on #KCACOLS

    • This glorious life 10/03/2017 / 10:30 pm

      It really is tricky isn’t it, and I’m not sure any of us experience anxiety in exactly the same way as anyone else. Sometimes all we can do is listen and let people feel heard. x

  2. Becky @ Educating Roversi 04/03/2017 / 11:02 pm

    Sounds great. My son is only 2yo but I’ve already started asking what or who made him sad when he’s crying (usually me because I haven’t let him do something). We can talk about why he feels that way and why someone might have had to do what they did “Mummy had to stop you from playing over here because you were nearer the hot oven and it might hurt you” – I find it really helps him calm down, like even in his 2yo simple mind it gives justification. #KCACOLS

    • This glorious life 10/03/2017 / 10:33 pm

      I think even at 2 they understand so much don’t they, and I think it’s always a good idea to explain things to them and to help them work through their emotions. x

  3. kristin mccarthy 05/03/2017 / 2:15 am

    I have a very sensation one as well. I find it does help to have her talk her worries out for a it also.
    #KCACOLS

    • This glorious life 10/03/2017 / 10:37 pm

      I think it really does help with sensitive children doesn’t it, to give them the chance to talk through their worries. x

  4. Peachy and her Mommy 05/03/2017 / 7:50 am

    Peachy is only 15 months old and I often wish she could tell me what’s upsetting her. I’ll make sure to keep your tips in mind when that time comes. #KCACOLS

    • This glorious life 05/03/2017 / 7:04 pm

      It’s so hard when they’re really little isn’t it, when you can’t get to the bottom of what’s upsetting them. Hope this post helps in the future. x

  5. Jenny (Accidental Hipster Mum) 05/03/2017 / 8:35 am

    Great advice! I have two very sensitive little ones and these tips sound fab. I’ll definitely try some of the techniques I hadn’t thought of. We already try and give the feelings a name.

    #KCACOLS

    • This glorious life 10/03/2017 / 10:37 pm

      Thank you, I really hope some of this helps with your little ones. x

  6. Kimberley | Oh Just My Little Blog 05/03/2017 / 7:51 pm

    This is lovely. Sometimes I find it hard to make things better when a child in my class is worried or upset. Maybe listening, like really listening carefully, is enough x #KCACOLS

    • This glorious life 10/03/2017 / 10:38 pm

      I honestly think that a lot of the time just knowing you’re being heard is enough. x

  7. romaine lawson 06/03/2017 / 3:54 pm

    I try with my two and with mixed results, sometimes it takes alot of rephrasing of the question to get out of them what might be on their minds. Other times they just dont know which I understand as sometimes I feel a bit like that.

    Mainy

    #KCACOLS

    • This glorious life 07/03/2017 / 9:40 pm

      It can be so hard can’t it, it’s taken us days with some issues with Rhys, to really get to the bottom of what’s bothering him. But I hope at least he’s felt that his feelings have been understood and validated, while we’ve been working out the root cause of them. x

  8. Pen 07/03/2017 / 8:33 am

    I really like these tips. Re-phrasing and repeating back is a really good way to demonstrate that you are really listening and that you care. It’s the same psychology as for adults really. Cygnet is 2 and a half and I don’t yet really have a feel for how sensitive he is going to be. Thank you ! Pen x #KCACOLS

    • This glorious life 10/03/2017 / 10:53 pm

      Thank you Pen. It really is the same isn’t it, it’s thinking about what we as adults need when we feel strong emotions and applying that to our children. x

  9. Nicola | Mummy to Dex 07/03/2017 / 2:35 pm

    What a fantastic post. It’s so great that you are acknowledging rhys’ feelings and helping him work through hem. I can remember feeling very anxious as a child myself and it’s carried through to adulthood. I’m sure if I’d had somebody who was willing to listen it would have helped immensely.

    #KCACOLS

    • This glorious life 07/03/2017 / 9:38 pm

      Thank you so much. It can be so hard when they have such big feelings, and I really hope this does help Rhys to know that we’re here to help him through them. x

  10. This is so helpful thank you. My son is 5 as well and is also very sensitive. I try my best to utilize these strategies but never thought about rewording what he’s said to show understanding. I always reiterate that I understand and see that he’s feeling sad/anxious etc but using different words as you describe in the first point is a great idea. #KCACOLS

    • This glorious life 07/03/2017 / 9:35 pm

      I really hope it helps, it can be so hard can’t it, when they’re so sensitive and so young still. x

  11. Laura Beresford 08/03/2017 / 2:30 pm

    Great advice. My eldest is nearly 7 and very quiet and sensitive at school (chatty and sensitive at home!) I really worry abouthow he will cope with life, especially when he reaches his teens #kcacols

    • This glorious life 09/03/2017 / 9:27 pm

      It’s really hard isn’t it. Rhys is so sensitive, I really hope he feels he can talk his feelings through we us as he gets older, rather than keeping them all inside. x

  12. Cassie 09/03/2017 / 7:48 pm

    We try these methods. It definately helps and I hope it will help him feel like he can come to me with his problems as he gets older.

    #KCACOLS

    • This glorious life 09/03/2017 / 9:25 pm

      It does help doesn’t it, and I’m the same, hoping it will pave the way for open communication as they get older. x

  13. Nadine Best 09/03/2017 / 11:54 pm

    I’ve got a few sensitive hearts in my brood too!! I love giving their feelings names. It really helps 🙂 #KCACOLS

    • This glorious life 10/03/2017 / 10:55 pm

      It does help them to process their feelings doesn’t it, once those feelings have names. x

  14. the frenchie mummy 10/03/2017 / 10:28 pm

    All your ideas are so true! I find myself being very impatient with Baba when really, I should try to understand what is wrong and just a let him explain it to me. Well he doesn’t talk yet but he knows how to make himself heard… Thanks so much for linking up at #KCACOLS. Hope you come back again next Sunday.

    • This glorious life 10/03/2017 / 10:55 pm

      Oh it’s so, so hard when they’re so little and can’t communicate that well yet! x

  15. Ali Duke 11/03/2017 / 2:55 pm

    I always listen to Booey when she needs someone to talk to. Now she is older she knows mostly how to put her feeling into words. I have found that most of the time she just wants to vent then is back to normal.
    #KCACOLS

  16. Becky Clark 13/03/2017 / 11:15 am

    I’ve always been very anxious. I remember feeling sick as a child and not knowing how to explain it. Now I know that it was amthe feeling of been worried. It’s very important to try and understand children. Some great tips here #KCACOLS

  17. Poor little monkey. I think my 2-year old may be the same. If something happens that unsettles her, she repeats it over and over, sometimes for days. We got a book from the library the other day called the big book of feelings. She’s a little young to grasp it all he might like it xx

    • This glorious life 13/03/2017 / 9:47 pm

      I’ll have to go and take a look at that book, thank you, I think something like that might actually really help Rhys. x

  18. Crummy Mummy 14/03/2017 / 8:45 am

    These are great tips – BB is learning about feelings at school at the moment, I will try this! #KCACOLS

  19. Claire 16/03/2017 / 9:48 pm

    Such a great post which I’m sure will be really helpful. Henry’s one but I try to crouch to his level when I’m talking to him about something I want him to try and understand and it seems to be working. For example, I’m currently trying to teach him that when we’re walking in the street, or in a shop etc he has to hold my hand. Every time he tries to shake me away I’ve been crouching down and tell him he has to hold my hand, then telling him how well he’s doing as we’re walking, today he went to grab my hand unpromted so I think it’s working! I’ve gone off on a tangent but just like your post it shows the power of finding an effective way to communicate even with young children! #kcacols

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