Are We Supposed to Hide Negative Feelings From our Children?

Some parents hide their negative feelings to prevent their potentially negative impact on their children.  But hiding true feelings may cause children to fail to properly understand you or recognize different feelings and emotions. For example, when you calmly affirm that you are upset, your child realizes that even difficult feelings can be managed.

There is no point in putting the burden of our grief and desperation on children, but suppose that you are crying because you have recently lost an intimate friend. When your two or three-year-old baby finds you crying, he or she comes to you to see what’s going on. Instead of saying “don’t worry, I am fine” you can simply say” I don’t feel very well because I have lost an intimate friend and won’t be able to see her again. I think we should go out for a walk. It can help me feel better”

Before the age of one, children are not able to understand that if their mom or dad is a different person, so when you are sad and helpless, they react like crying, restlessness and aggression. The best thing you can do is to be kind and pay more attention to them.

However, after one year old, children realize they are separate beings. In some situations where you are very upset or when unpleasant situations have occurred, children understand the changes in mood or parent’s feelings. They might develop a sense of fault and frustration when they find them sad and upset. This is because of the fact that they think they are the only person in your world. This feeling sometimes lasts up to the age of 8. So when you feel upset, try to explain everything with simple words that are not beyond their understanding in order to prevent them from developing a sense of guilt.

How to limit reactions when a feeling arises?

This technique can be applied at the age of 1.5 to help children understand that even though they can have any feelings, their attitudes and behaviors are bounded by some limits.

For example, you could say, “I know you’re upset because your sister can’t play with you and she is busy playing with her toys, but this doesn’t give you any right to hit her. That’s absolutely forbidden. What else do you think can help you feel better now?” you can give your child some choices if they can’t come up with any idea by themselves.

Anger management specialist Lynne Namka[1] advises noting children’s abdomen, jaw and eyes to find out if they are angry or not.  For instance, if they grind their teeth, ask them to take a deep breath to soothe their anger. Namka advises parents to help their children recite such a sentence in a firm tone.

Children should know that they are allowed to be angry as long as their anger doesn’t give them an incentive to harm others. Children can simply tell you why they are angry, paint pictures of the things that make them feel angry, or reveal the reasons for their anger when playing with their toys.  As a kid, I always felt angry when my dad refused to play with me after he came back home from work, and in an attempt to show my anger, I role-playing the same theme with my   animal toys

To be honest, most of the weird attitudes children adopt simply show that they are trying to convey their feelings to us but can’t find the tools that can adequately reflect their feelings. Even we, as adults, may sometimes find ourselves unable to find the tools that can help us soothe ourselves.  This state is usually seen when people drive too fast or carelessly (due to anger) or when they shout or pound on the table.

What do you do when trying to introduce emotional intelligence to your children?

You definitely avoid the bad behaviors and attitudes that your child might imitate.

When you feel angry with your children, you can simply replace sentences “with relatively negative connotations” with ones “with relatively positive connotations”.  For instance, instead of saying “you drive me mad” or “you’re such a brat” you can simply say “I feel really disappointed when I find you doing that”

By doing so you help your children understand that their behavior, rather than their character, is disapproving.  Avoid excessive criticism and reprehension, because it might impair a child’s self-esteem.

Though you may find it hard to believe, no child is born with low self-confidence. In fact, parents and caretakers are the only ones who can destroy children’s self-confidence. In other words, self-confidence can be built and destroyed during the first 3 years of life.

Written by Naghmeh Keshavarz, Psy,


Photo: Ardiyan Erfan

[1] Lynne Namka  reference:


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