By Jane Bluestein, Ph.D.
- It’s OK for children to have feelings without explaining or defending them.
- Feelings are not behaviors. Feelings are never right or wrong, but behaviors that hurt other people are not OK. Adults do not need to protect other people from a child’s feelings, but they may need to intervene in hurtful behaviors.
- It’s OK to express feelings as long as doing so does not hurt anyone or create problems for others.
- Most children (and many adults) do not have healthy, non-hurtful outlets for expressing their feelings, especially anger or frustration. In a non-conflict time, discuss and present options available to help kids “externalize” their feelings without hurting themselves or others. (Ex: Having a stuffed animal or picture they can talk to when you’re not available. Being able to draw a picture or write a letter about how they’re feeling–and then tearing it up! Going for a run, hitting a pillow, tearing up paper, or going down the hall for a drink of water and a chance to catch their breath!)
- Adults and children are distinct, separate individuals. It is not necessary to own someone’s feelings or problems, feel their feelings for them, or solve their problems to show that person love.
- Adults are not responsible for changing or controlling the child’s feelings. It’s more loving and supportive to communicate that a child’s feelings are heard, respected, and taken seriously–even when you don’t understand them.
- Children learn to deal with feelings more effectively when they don’t have to “stuff” or hide them to protect a critical, guilt-ridden, or over-reacting adult.
- Responses that interfere with children’s ability to own, feel, or process their feelings can block communications, teach children to mistrust their own feelings and perceptions, and interfere with the development of their problem-solving capabilities.
Excerpted and adapted from The Win-Win Classroom, by Jane Bluestein, Ph.D. © 2008, Corwin Press, Thousand Oaks, CA, and Parents, Teens & Boundaries, by Jane Bluestein, Ph.D., © 2001, Health Communications, Inc, Deerfield Beach, FL.