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Here’s How to Talk to Your Kids About Their Feelings During Times of Great Stress

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We’re going through something that most of us have never experienced in our lifetimes, and may never again. The inability to go about our daily lives as we once did, to see family and friends, to pull out our coping mechanisms in response to stress the way we normally would – it’s all taking a toll.

If your kids are a bit older, there’s a good chance that they’re able to express what they’re feeling, how they’re coping, and to ask for help if they need it.

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If your kids are younger, don’t make the mistake of thinking that everything is fine because they don’t understand everything that’s happening and why, or because they lack the emotional and actual language to communicate it to you.

When times are stressful, here are a few questions that can help our younger kids be able to express their feelings.

  • What did you learn about today?
  • What is something interesting of funny you heard about today?
  • What was the most fun thing you did today?
  • What are you most looking forward to tomorrow?
  • What was the toughest part of your day today?
  • What was something you didn’t like about your day?
  • What got in the way today of you having a fun day?
  • What can we do together to make it better?
  • I read something interesting today and wanted to know if you had a reaction to it?

While these are great questions, child psychologist Jerry Bubrick says that timing is everything when it comes to bringing them up – and no, bedtime isn’t best.

“Bedtime is not the right time. Kids are starting to wind down for the day. Anxious kids have more worries at night.

Don’t lead them down the path of more worry. And don’t talk to them about this when they first wake up.

Find a time, a neutral time, when there hasn’t been a big argument. Look for a calm moment.”

Maybe supper time, he says, or while taking a family walk.

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If you’re knew to prodding your kids feelings, he suggests a game that he and his family play as a sort-of icebreaker.

“With my kids, I suggest a game:

Like a rose. …You start and model the game.

There are three components to the rose.

The petal: Tell me something you liked about today.

The thorn: Tell me something you didn’t like.

The bud: Tell me something you’re looking forward to in the future.”

If your kids are under five (or over but still have trouble articulating feelings) a visual chart can be helpful.

After all, “if you can name it, you can tame it.”

It’s important to model an appropriate response for your kids whenever possible, which means taking time to calm yourself down if you need to, and remind yourself that this will be over one day.

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“We want to help kids stay in the moment. It’s so easy to get wrapped up in the unknown.

All we know is what’s happening to us right now. We have each other. We’re connected to our friends.

Let’s focus on that. We’ll deal with tomorrow, tomorrow.”

An important reminder for everyone in these trying times, no matter our age.

Even if Scarlet O’Hara was a terrible person in a movie that perpetuates horribly inaccurate stereotypes of slavery and the American South, Vivian Leigh did get one thing right – tomorrow is another day.