One of the most important skills that you can use with your child to help them to identify their feelings is reflective listening. This shows them that you absolutely hear what they are saying.
Reflective listening is when you reflect back what you heard your child say verbatim. I recommend that you take it one step further and also reflect what you perceive that your child is feeling. Then you stop, wait, and listen for your child's feedback. Often times when you do this the child will correct you and state his concerns or thoughts in a different manner. Sometimes your child will tell you that you understand him or her but will share that he is feeling a different feeling.
I recommend that parents identify the feelings to five primary ones: anger, sadness, loneliness, fear and happiness. The kid version is mad, sad, glad, afraid and lonely. This helps the child to focus on how their life issues are affecting them individually. This often adds credibility to how they feel and also to their sense of self.
The feelings are often the driver for how one behaves, what one thinks, and what one should do in the present situation. As a result, the feeling can help the child to identify how the child is going to react to a situation. These steps are the precursor to brainstorming with your child how they might deal with a situation.
So let's take a look at some situations your child may be experiencing and the potential script that you might use with your child.
Jason comes in from a hard day at school and says "Mom I can't believe how stupid my teacher is. She yelled at me for not having my homework and I know I gave her that homework yesterday." The parent would say, "Jason it sounds like you are really mad that the teacher didn't know you handed in your homework. As a parent you may be thinking "oh no, Jason has lost his homework and forgot to turn it in." No matter what your internal thoughts, Jason will be less defensive and may begin to be able to identify what the next course of action should be ... such as:
He can go to the teacher and explain that he did turn the homework in and ask her what she would advise him to do.
He can go back through his backpack and make sure that he indeed did turn in the homework.
He can ask the teacher if he can read, to use as homework so that he can get credit.
He can accept the fact that sometimes things get lost and the consequence is that it will affect his grade.
Susie comes home from playing with her friends and is crying. She tells you that her friends will not talk to her and have left her out again. In using reflective listening you would say, "Susie it sounds like you were left out and you feel really sad. After this is clarified you can help her to brainstorm options for this situation. Brainstorming might include:
finding some alternate friends to play with.
visiting the girls and asking them if they are mad at you
calling one of your friends and finding out if she can help you brainstorm a solution.
So as you can see…the formula is simple and will help your child navigate through the course of life!