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  • Expert: There's A Right Time To Ask Your Kids How They're Feeling To Ease Their Worries

    Asking at the wrong time can make them more anxious.
    by Kitty Elicay .
Expert: There's A Right Time To Ask Your Kids How They're Feeling To Ease Their Worries
PHOTO BY Shutterstock/takayuki
  • While virtual classes still offer a chance for kids to mingle with their classmates and peers, the lack of physical interaction including the many changes that the COVID-19 pandemic brought may have made them more worried, whether they admit it or not.

    It’s crucial that parents have an open line of communication with their kids and get them to open up about their feelings, but experts say it should be done in a calm and light manner. There is also a right time in the day to talk about it.

    “Our job as parents isn’t to provide certainty in a time of uncertainty. Our job is to help kids tolerate the uncertainty,” explains Jerry Bubrick, PhD, a clinical psychologist at the Child Mind Institute, to Fatherly.

    When is the right time to ask a child to share his feelings?

    Accepting and validating our children’s emotions — whether good or bad — is the first step to get them to open up. “Our acceptance is what allows them to be expressed in a healthy manner,” explains Janet Lansbury, a parenting educator, author, and host of the popular podcast Respectful Parenting.

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    Parents should also be mindful of the time when they start the conversation. Avoid doing it at bedtime, when the kids are getting ready to sleep, advises Dr. Bubrick.

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    “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,” he says.

    Steer clear of heavy topics in the morning, especially when they’ve just woken up. “Find a time, a neutral time, when there hasn’t been a big argument. Look for a calm moment,” adds Dr. Bubrick.

    A neutral time may be during dinner, with everyone together and where your child is assured that you have their full attention. You can also encourage them to talk by scheduling alone time with them.

    How to get a child to share his feelings

    Avoid asking vague questions because you’ll only get vague answers, says Dr. Bubrick. Worse is when they say, “I’m ok,” effectively ending the talk.

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    Instead, try open-ended yet specific questions. It empowers them and inspires them to problem-solve. Here are Dr. Bubrick’s suggestions:

    • What did you learn about today?
    • What is something interesting or 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?

    If your kids are hesitant, or are unable to articulate their emotions, tell them about your own feelings and how you are managing them.

    “They hear you strategizing about your own feelings, when you’re nervous or frustrated, and how you’re going to handle it, and they can use these words,” shares Stephanie Samar, PsyD, a clinical psychologist at the Child Mind Institute.

    If your kids have questions about the situation, be as truthful and factual as you can with your answer. But refrain from offering more details than what your child is asking, especially if they are not developmentally able to understand it yet, advises Kids Health.

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    “We want to teach them how to tolerate not knowing. You should let them explain how they’re feeling and why, and you can help them validate those feeling by saying things like, ‘I have similar worries. Let’s brainstorm ideas on how we can make things better.’ Instead of just giving answers, you want to have a conversation and compare notes,” says Dr. Bubrick.

    Kids with anxiety often complain of stomach pain and headaches. Click here for the physical signs you should be looking out for.

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