Family Communication

Communicating Ideas and Emotions with Our Children

Helping Children Use Their Words

In my consulting work in the schools, I am always excited when I hear a teacher say to an angry child, “Jamie, can you please use your words to tell us what’s wrong?”  I am excited because she is encouraging her students to use words instead of actions to express their emotions.  Such teachers are wise and know that good verbal communication is the cornerstone of strong relationships.  Good communication depends upon listening, upon expressing ideas and feelings and upon reaching mutual understanding.  Open communication means that parents and children validate one another’s ideas, emotions, and needs.  Good and open communication means empowered families!

It is difficult for children to put their emotions into words. They are more inclined to have an emotional outburst than to say, “I’m mad at you,” and to explain why.  Their inclinations are to act out their feelings rather than use words to express them. Children need to learn from us.  We need to teach them how to find words to communicate their feelings.  We can model good communication by verbally expressing our feelings instead of simply acting upon them.  If you have a headache, you can explain this to your child rather than having an angry outburst.  This helps your child understand and accept your irritable mood.

When we help children learn to use words instead of actions to communicate their feelings effectively, they gain confidence in themselves. When we don‘t, children ineffectively relieve their tensions in emotional outbursts.  This is frustrating  to them and to us.

Children often blur boundaries between self and other.  Young children do not distinguish between the emotions and actions of others and their own.  Because of this, young children readily assume that others caused their behavior. “He made me do it,” is a frequent allegation by a sibling. Children need help in separating the acts of the other person from their own emotional reactions to those acts and from their own subsequent behavior.

The most useful response when others hurt our feelings is to honestly say that our feelings are hurt.  We are better served by verbally communicating our feelings to others, rather than by blindly acting upon them.

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“Dr. Goldman, When you had assisted my family, I was going through some major issues in my life and could not regulate my emotions.  I am thankful that you were in my life at that time.
I am currently enrolled in college and things are so much better for the boys.  Because of your first recommendation and at Michael’s request, I did allow him to re-enroll at the middle school for the remainder of his 8th grade year.  It was the first part of learning to trust again, though very difficult.

I really do owe a lot of appreciation to you for working patiently with all the problems and barriers along the way!! I didn’t have much support, and felt like you were very good towards me and my family, and that gave me the support that I needed along the journey.  Thank you very much Dr. Goldman with all my heart.”  SP, Phoenix

Any questions?  For More Information on Family Communication and Helping Children Express Emotions call me, Dr. Audrey at 602 762 7117 for a complimentary telephone session. I can also be contacted at audrey@draudreygoldman.com and I would love to hear from you.

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