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How do you help your kids identify and communicate their feelings?

May 20, 2013

When I ask my kids, “How are you doing?” Without any thought they often give the auto-reply: “Good.”

I know I need to teach my kids how to identify what they are feeling so that they can be more aware of what’s going on in their heart and be able to communicate that.

“As water reflects a face, so a man’s heart reflects the man.” – Prov. 27:19


Imagine if your children could quickly identify their feelings.

With that desire I read Chip Dodd’s book, The Voice of the Heart. According to Dr. Dodd, there are only eight feelings: Hurt, loneliness, sadness, anger, fear, shame, guilt, and gladness.

Why is love not on the list? According to Dodd, “Love is not on the list because love is so much more than a feeling . . . Love has feelings in it, but love is more than a feeling.”

Why is only one feeling positive? According to Dodd, “Each feeling is positive because of where it can lead . . . all eight feelings are good . . . it’s my behavior that is good or bad; feelings themselves are good – each feeling is a gift from God.”

Each feeling has its own purpose:

Hurt leads to healing

Loneliness moves us to intimacy

Sadness expresses value and honor

Anger hungers for life

Fear awakens us to danger and begins wisdom

Shame maintains humility and mercy

Guilt brings forgiveness

Gladness proves hope of the heart to be true

Why identify your feelings?  “Wherever you lack awareness of your heart, no room exists for God.”

So you identify your feeling. Then what? According to Dr. Dodd, the response to identifying your feeling is a three-step process:

1. You’re able to fully feel your feeling
2. You tell the truth about what is happening inside of you
3. You surrender control to God

On Saturday, I challenged my oldest two daughters to memorize the list of eight feelings for a $.50 reward (I know, I’m cheap). They memorized the list quickly.

As my oldest daughter and I were riding in the car to church yesterday, she said, “Dad, can you list the eight feelings?” I smiled and together we remembered the full list. Then she said, “I’m a little nervous right now so I guess that comes from fear right?”

“Yes, I guess so. Why are you a little nervous?” I asked. “This morning I’m visiting ‘Breakaway’ (our middle school ministry) for the first time.”

So together, we walked through the three-step process to:

1. Fully feel your feelings (we talked about the origin and physical effects of fear)
2. Spoke about the truth of what was happening inside of her
3. Encouraged her to surrender control of this feeling to God.

I LOVED the smile on her face. Though she remained nervous, she was able to embrace her opportunity and her need for God’s help.

What do you do to help your children identify and communicate their feelings?


From → Family, Theology

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