Why Do Kids Not Talk About Their Feelings?

Ask The Doctor > Children's Health > Why Do Kids Not Talk About Their Feelings?

Many children face emotional suppression and can end up finding it hard to talk about their emotions. Children are born as emotional creatures. Their inherent ability to attach emotionally is natural and life preserving for them. However, for some children who are born into families where drug and alcohol abuse, or other safety related issues are present, the children may need to be removed to a ‘safer environment’ or they may struggle to gain and maintain emotional attachment with parents who are accepting and open to all emotions.

The only way out of emotional discomfort or emotional distress for such children is for them to learn to suppress their emotions, to focus on other things by becoming more physically active, more mentally active, or simply shutting down all together into a space of depression and delusion or make believe! This is the cause of great mental and motional strain for children which in turn transfers back to the parents.

Children who have learned to suppress their emotion are not able to trust others because that which trusts (love) is an emotion and becomes suppressed too. The only way to tease this trust back out is to hold the child in a space of unconditional love.

When responding to a child who has symptoms of emotional suppression such as constant business, agitation, inability to be still for any length of time, broken and disrupted sleep, frequent outbursts of aggression, lying, stealing or log periods without communication, you should ask yourself several easy questions.

Firstly, “Do I want the problem or the solution?” And we all want the solution, right?

Then the next question is, “What would love do now,” or “How would love respond to this?” Wait for a loving answer to surface, otherwise your ego and frustration will suppress your emotion and further demonstrate and reinforce emotional suppression to the child.

The answers to these questions will be as wide and varied as the problems themselves, but the best answers will always have a common denominator of loving essence at their core. It is important to practice unconditional love for your children.

Children will be expressing their emotion in many ways, even if it is suppressed to a deep unconscious level, it will still come out in their interactions and communications in some form. Be observant and watch out for it. Observe their interactions with others and in their playing, collaborating and friendships, ask yourself, “What is their call for help here?”

So now, how does a parent get their children to open up and what can a mother or father do to try to figure out what’s wrong?

Encouraging the child to express creatively is always a great window to their soul and it is the soul that expresses most emotionally. Working with colour pencils, paints, crayons, Plasticine, clay, food, toys, sand trays or even the performing arts like dance, drama and music are great ways for children to express their innermost creativity. Also role playing with the children and encouraging them to express their thoughts, their actions, and their feelings in any given situation, and then validating that expression with praise and rewards, followed with loving emotional correction when needed is always a wise path to follow.

Expressing to the child what it is that you want to see, what behaviour you would love and enjoy, what to do to correct any difficult situation will always yield the best long term results with children and teach them to express their emotional needs in a trusting environment. Expressing what you do not want to see and the behaviour you do not want will, on the other hand, teach the child to suppress using the tools of frustration and anger.

With all of this said, it is important to encourage children to share their feelings and truly listen to what they are saying. Big things can be found out from small actions.

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Dr. Jimmy Obaji M.D.

Dr. Jimmy Obaji completed his residency in Family Medicine at the University of Manitoba. He currently operates a walk-in-clinic in downtown Toronto.

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