Lately I’ve included the importance of talking with children about their emotions in most of my messages. Even though the topic may not be in my notes and may not appear to be immediately relevant, the idea comes to mind. Then I share. Then I know it’s relevant. Parents nod. I watch them take notes.
Children and teens have many emotional responses to life. Boys have as many as girls, but they lack emotional vocabulary so this can make feelings even more stressful for boys. Because of kids’ exposure to the world on the web and live, unedited footage of happenings locally and everywhere, they see and hear much more than we would have at their age. Consequently, they feel more, too.
As people know who have heard me teach about kids’ 8 great smarts, we can teach children to think with all 8 and feel with all 8. When we encourage them to process feelings with their smart strengths, they’ll have more complete feelings. They won’t be negatively controlled by feelings and they’ll eventually have a healthier perspective toward the event, themselves, and other people.
The same ideas may work for positive feelings such as joy, gratefulness, and excitement and those we may think of as negative such as fear, grief, anger, and doubt. It may be more necessary to help children process hard feelings, but when we do, they’ll learn things that will help them when positive feelings also feel overwhelming.
As you read through my ideas, you could have the unwarranted and tragic killings of the young lives in Orlando on your mind, some sadness a child had to deal with such as being cut from a sports team, or their joy at earning a top score at a music competition.
Let’s guide children to use their smarts to process their feelings – to better feel their feelings and think about them, too. I’m certainly not suggesting you sit them down with directions like, “Okay, now let’s think about your feelings with movement and touch so you can use your body to process them.” No … I’m simply asking you to remember to lead them through your words and actions to opportunities so they can process feelings with their smarts.
Here are some suggestions:
When using word smart, children think with words. They will need to talk. Some may want to have long conversations with you. Others may prefer short conversations that occur on-and-off. And, some won’t need you at all. It’s more a matter of them being allowed to process their thoughts in words – out loud, on paper, and perhaps by typing. They may also benefit by listening to you talk about your feelings and how you’re dealing with them.
When using logic smart, children think with questions. They want things to be fair and get frustrated when they’re not. Therefore, incidents like the Orlando tragedy can make them very angry. We need to be available to their questions. Conversations will be very helpful. Also, they may do research online about the incident that triggered their feelings, people involved, how others are responding, and the like. When using our logic, we are solution-focused. For example, hundreds in Orlando gave blood. Airlines and hotels helped with expenses for family members. Rallies were held so victims could be honored and those grieving wouldn’t be alone. Thinking about these types of things will give logic-smart children great hope.
When using picture smart, children think with pictures. They often see images vividly in their minds and will almost always remember their dreams in more detail than others will. They may also draw on paper. Drawing or coloring with them may help them process feelings because you’ll be right there as they’re thinking and feeling. We can also ask them what they see in their minds as we’re talking. This question may surprise your children, but it’s very honoring. They will feel known and safe. As they listen to the news and overhear our conversations, words can trigger pictures. Images they see on TV and the Internet trigger pictures. For many picture-smart children, they’ll struggle to not see them. Therefore, guard their eyes.
When using music smart, children think with rhythms and melodies. Listening to their favorite music can be especially important as they process both good and hard feelings. They may also want to play or sing. For example, I know many piano players, both children and adults, who play when emotional. You can sit in the room with them and sing or play with them. Just being available will give you opportunities to then talk with them. All children have all 8 smarts and they work in combination. So, these children may be better able to talk with you about what they’re feeling after they first process their feelings through music.
When using body smart, children think with movement and touch. Therefore, they will need to move freely and often while feeling their feelings. Movement and touch help them think and relax. Help these kids by going for a walk with them, talking while you push them on a swing, go to the driving range, and shoot hoops in your driveway. They may want and need even more hugs and other physical contact than normal. Fist bump them, walk holding hands, and scratch their backs while talking at the table. If exercising, dancing, drumming, or crafting are normal activities, they’ll need to continue these or stress will badly build.
When using nature smart, children think with patterns. They may need to spend time outside just sitting on a bench or walking in a park. They can benefit from doing this alone and with others. If they have pets, they’ll gain more comfort from interacting with them than others. Garden with these kids, go to a pet shelter, and visit the zoo. These children may open up more in these environments.
When using people smart, children think with people. Like when children are word smart, they’ll process with words. But, these children need conversations and don’t do well feeling or thinking alone. They’ll grieve best and process their fears and confusion most deeply when spending time with other people. They’ll want to test their thoughts and feelings by sharing them and having you react to them. Interacting with others feeling the same feelings can be comforting. These children may want to visit memorials and attend gatherings of others.
When using self smart, children think with reflection. Unlike children using their people smart, when being self smart, children process their thoughts and feelings alone, thinking and feeling deeply inside of themselves. They will actually prefer to feel alone, in quiet and privacy. They’ll need space. Stress will build if they don’t have it. It’s a fine balance, isn’t it? Parents and other significant people in their lives need to know how they’re feeling and what they’re feeling. You’ll learn to not ask them in groups. And, don’t expect quick answers. Share some of your feelings with them and this might encourage them to share their feelings with you – someone they’re safe with. and, remember that the smarts work together. Is your self-smart child nature smart? Go for a quiet walk in a park. Is your child picture smart? Sit side-by-side and color. This may help them open up. Is your child music smart? Listen to his or her favorite music together. Just being present will help them.
Okay, what do you think? I truly hope this isn’t overwhelming, but is a blessing. What if you printed this out and had it handy to refer to in the future? Children (and adults) must process feelings in healthy ways or they become overwhelming or we stuff them deep down to deal with later. But, too often we never do. That creates bigger problems later. Being available and guiding our children to feel what they feel may be one of the most important things we do. Bless you as you parent well in this way.