Five tips for talking to children about feelings

This content is sponsored by Barnardo's

This content is sponsored by Barnardo's

Talking about feelings and thoughts we might have doesn’t always come naturally. It takes time and practice to instil a sense of honesty and openness in a relationship – and this is no different for young people.

Talking with children 2

Work out your own boundaries

Young people can sense when we as adults feel uncomfortable, therefore modelling openness is key. Identify what feelings you are comfortable discussing with others. Once you’ve done this, you can lead by example; Whether you’re a grandparent or have children in your close family, let them see – even if it’s difficult – that it’s okay to be vulnerable.

Think about how they expresses themselves

Some young people will find it difficult to open up about their feelings. If they engage with games, there are some fantastic conversation starter games that you could try. Some of our favourite subtly look at worries and feelings – ‘Blob cards’, ‘School of Life 100 Questions for Families’ and ‘StoryCubes’. Some of our practitioners also like the Disney film Inside Out for younger children.

Reflect together

If you’re sat having dinner together, begin by talking about how your own day/week has been with your own worries, ups and downs. Involve them by asking questions like “this made me sad – if you were me, what would you do to be happier?” Another suggestion would be to watch TV programmes together and reflect on them. Ask them questions like, “If someone did that to you, how would you respond?” or “How do you think that character felt when this happened?” This can lead to in-depth and telling conversations with the children in your family and how and how they feel.

Pick your time and give them space

Noticing an opportunity is important, so make sure you have time and privacy to talk to the young people in your family properly. When they’re telling you something, try not to assume, accuse or dismiss them – no matter how small the issue is. Children need to know that you’re going to respond with openness and love in order to feel safe.

Talking to children about feelings

Practice listening to one another

Practice active listening with them by following this little exercise. Remember to own and identify your feelings, it’s important to allow others to feel different and let them express this. There are two roles – the talker and the listener.

  • The talker spends 60 seconds speaking about a topic they’re interested in – this could be a hobby or something you had done that day. Make sure to include feelings and thoughts within the talk.
  • After 60 seconds, the listener will repeat back the highlights of the talk, making sure to include the thoughts and feelings of what was said.
  • Swap roles and start again. This exercise can help both you and the child to become better at listening and picking up on key feelings and points.
Talking to children about feelings

How together we can help other families

We know that no family looks the same, and that many families are complicated. We all have our own in-jokes and eccentricities – our own challenges, troubles and rows. So when we talk of family, we mean a feeling of safety and love – and that’s the heart of what we do.

Every day, we help children and young people to find that feeling of family. We help them to cope, mend and rebuild, and to find that security and comfort. And we support families through the difficult times, and help them to protect those they love.

Your Will is the safest way to protect those closest to you. And a gift to Barnardo’s can give that feeling of safety to another child – and another family.

By leaving a gift in your Will to Barnardo’s, you can pass on the gift of family to others.

Supporting Barnardo’s through your legacy

You’ll find more information about Remembering Childhood with a Gift in Your Will to Barnardo’s here.

This content is sponsored by Barnardo's

Last modified: June 10, 2021

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