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Emotions can be scary at any age, but children are especially at risk of being overcome by their feelings without understanding how to communicate them. This is especially true if you have a child who deals with anxiety. If you are wondering how to explain anxiety to a 5 year old, you first must ensure you know how to communicate effectively.
Before you can communicate effectively with your child, you need to understand the types of communication yourself. There are two kinds: verbal and nonverbal. Verbal communication is not only about the words you say but the pitch and tone of voice you use to say them and the dialect you use. Nonverbal communication can be intentional or unintentional and involves body language. Examples include eye contact, hand gestures, facial expressions, physical touch, and personal space.
Perhaps the most important part of communicating with a child is using positive language. Just like you wouldn’t respond positively to your boss putting you down, your child won’t respond positively if they feel you’re putting them down. Speak from kindness, focusing on the things you like about your child and what they’re doing before communicating something you’d like to see change. “First-then” statements are also a good idea, especially when handling ADHD in 6 year old. Instead of saying “No, you can’t watch cartoons because you need to pick up your toys,” try “First, we need to pick up your toys, then you can watch cartoons.”
Using active and reflective listening skills helps your child feel like their voice is being heard and that understand them. While your child is speaking, indicate that you’re listening by talking to them at their eye level and by nodding and smiling periodically. Ask clarifying questions when necessary to determine what they’re trying to tell you. When you do understand, repeat what your child said but use different words. This shows you’re truly listening and opens the door for them to provide more detail as they’re comfortable.
There are two different ways that explaining feelings provides beneficial communication with your child. First, you can explain your own feelings. It’s easy to say “because I’m the parent,” when your child questions something, but that doesn’t help them trust you or teach them how to communicate more effectively. Instead, explain your emotions or reasoning behind something you said using language your child can understand. You can also interpret explaining feelings as helping your child understand their own emotions. Listen without judgment when they’re expressing feelings and help them find the words for those emotions if they’re struggling.
Above all, consider the communication examples you show your child. If you have trouble expressing your emotions and always try to appear strong, or if you always seem stressed because you don’t like to burden people with your needs, then your child will learn the same behaviors. Consider talking to a therapist to learn better communication skills if necessary.
If your child suffers from anxiety or ADHD, proper communication when used in combination with over the counter ADHD medication for child can be quite effective for handling emotions. Talk to your child’s pediatrician to determine whether an over-the-counter option is right for your little one’s individual needs.