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Supporting Your Children in Managing Difficult Emotions during COVID-19

Victoria Ewen is helping families improve their ability to handle difficult feelings.
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Victoria Ewen, Clinical Psychology Doctoral Intern, Sullivan + Associates Clinical Psychology.

By Victoria Ewen, Clinical Psychology Doctoral Intern

Nowadays, children and parents alike are struggling with difficult emotions related to the pandemic. Parents may be frustrated with the constant changes in regulations and children may be sad that they are not able to spend as much time with friends. For those who are struggling, you can learn skills that help improve your ability to handle these difficult feelings. As parents, you play an important role in teaching your children these skills, but also in modeling how to use them. With that in mind, here are some strategies that can be helpful for both parents and children when dealing with hard feelings.

  1. Identify your emotions.

Some people struggle with knowing how they feel, especially children who are still learning what feelings are. We can use cues like the environment, our thoughts about the

situation, or physical sensations to figure it out. When children know what they are feeling, they are better able to appropriately manage their emotions.

  1. Understand your emotions.

The purpose of emotions, evolutionarily speaking, is to alert us to something that needs our attention. When we are experiencing strong feelings, or when our children are expressing strong feelings, it is often because we have an unmet need. Try to determine what that need is and it may help to improve those feelings.

  1. Express your emotions.

Being able to express our emotions effectively, or assertively, helps build healthy relationships and get our needs met. This means sharing our feelings, while respecting the other person’s feelings. This can be done with statements like “I feel…” or “I need…”. We can learn assertiveness skills and teach them to our children so we can better connect with each other and ask for the things we need.

  1. Accept your emotions.

Life will inevitably include difficult feelings. Accepting this fact allows us to change how we interact with our feelings. Instead of negative emotions needing to be suppressed or avoided, we can learn to coexist with them until the next emotion comes along. Teaching children acceptance of feelings, even negative ones, allows them to learn healthy ways to cope with them.

While this can be challenging, learning to manage your emotions and support your children in learning these skills can make a meaningful difference in your lives.    

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