Kids have a lot of emotions, and they’re way worse at hiding them than adults. (Well, maybe not all adults. I once cried because I wanted falafel, but couldn’t make it because my food processor was broken.)
Combine this with the fact that kids often don’t even really know what they’re feeling—jealousy, anger, excitement, and nervousness are all new to them—and you’ve got a recipe for near disaster.
Think about all those “why my kid is crying” posts. Kids cry because their parents won’t let them touch the hot stove, because they aren’t allowed to eat all their candy for dinner, or because the dog won’t let them squeeze it as tight as they can.
I’m sure most parents reach a point where they just want a little peace and quiet and don’t want to deal with the extreme emotions of children, especially when they’re just about to check out at Target and someone decides to have a meltdown.
But the Christian life is full of emotions. Even though feelings shouldn’t dictate our faith, we can still embrace emotions as Christian people—the psalmist certainly did!
As you raise up young people in the faith, here are a few ways to encourage emotions and faith.
Don’t Downplay Emotions
When your child stomps away and slams her door for the fifth time today, don’t let your immediate reaction be one of anger. Instead of telling children to stop crying because “it’s not a big deal,” let them be upset for a little while.
By acknowledging emotions and not downplaying them, you allow your child to feel and not suppress his emotions. Consider praying together and using this as an opportunity to encourage talking with God about situations in everyday life.
Don’t Dismiss Feelings
I know—when kids are crying because they have to leave the McDonald’s PlayPlace, it seems totally ridiculous in comparison to your worry that you might not have enough gas in the tank to last you the week. But children’s emotions are powerful and meaningful to them, even if they seem silly to adults.
If children think they can cry only at certain times (like when someone passes away or when they scrape their knee), they’ll think crying at any other time is silly or stupid.
Do Help Process Emotions
As your child begins to feel emotions, it’ll be scary at first! She won’t be sure what she’s feeling, why she’s feeling it, or what to do.
When your child is grumpy or starts crying, ask him how he’s feeling. If he doesn’t have the words to describe it, give him some prompts:
- Can you describe how you’re feeling?
- Have you felt like this before? When did you feel like this?
- How can I help you? What can we do?
Do Validate Feelings
One of the worst things you can do is tell children they shouldn’t cry about something or that it’s not a big deal. Instead, tell your child it’s okay to be upset, and that you can figure out what to do together.
Let your child be sad, and tell her that it’s perfectly fine to feel that way. Encourage her to go to a quiet place and sort through her feelings, especially through prayer!
This month, talk about emotions together and grow in your faith by acting out Bible concepts with the August Everyday Faith Calendar.