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How To Create A Safe Space For Your Kids To Talk About Their Feelings

And why this matters more than anything.

“When you’re angry, sad or just not feeling well, what do you care about the most?”

This was a question I asked my nephew as I was doing market research for Zamio. Without hesitation, he replied, “I just want somebody to talk to.”

I followed up with, “And what is your biggest obstacle with finding somebody to talk to?”

“I feel like nobody understands me, and there is just nobody to talk to.”

Yet, he lives with both his parents, grandparents, and brother.

And still…not a single person to talk to?

This is an all too common feeling for kids worldwide, so inside this article, I will be sharing how you, as a parent, can create a safe space for your kids to talk about their feelings.

But first…

Why It's Important For Your Kids To Talk About Their Feelings

I always like sharing why something is necessary before breaking down the how and why it moves you towards action.

So, In order to demonstrate the significance of this, I am going to share what happens when children don’t talk about their feelings.

We know today that words themselves are just waves of sound, or better yet, waves of energy.

And one of the laws, if not the main one, is that energy itself can neither destroyed nor created, nor can it remain “stagnant.”

So words, are energy, and when we hold them in we try to kill this very alive energy.

Imagine spending your entire life being too scared to speak up. Do you know how much pressure would build inside of your body? Holding in all of that energy?

And then we wonder why get anxious, depressed, and fall into states of helplessness.

The real “imbalance” causes these kinds of emotional states.

These states are heavy because of the amount of energy you are holding too.

So just talking about your feelings alone will help you feel better.

It releases energy and “lightens” you up, literally.

Not creating your child a space to speak about their feelings can have long-term damages, many that all of us know too well.

Talking About Feelings Improves Their Health

At the core of all of our desires, we just want to feel seen, heard, and loved.

And we want to feel that deeply.

Not just in our minds, but in our bodies as well.

One of the main chemicals released when we experience the feeling of love and safety is oxytocin, and when its present blood pressure is improved, the body's immune system becomes stronger and the inflammatory state in the veins decreases.

According to a Mental Health Foundation in the UK, "Talking about your feelings isn’t a sign of weakness. It’s part of taking charge of your wellbeing and doing what you can to stay healthy."

It keeps you healthy by improving your immune system.

So not only will your child's health feel better, but so will yours when you start talking about your feelings as well.

A Step By Step Guide To Creating A Safe Space


1. Regulate Your Own Emotions

Have you ever walked into a room where two people just had an argument and immediately feel the heaviness of the room?

Because of mirror neurons, merely observing somebody else's experience can activate parts of the same neural networks that are responsible for feeling those same feelings, according to the Association For Psychological Science.

Therefore if YOU feel unsafe, frazzled, and constricted then it is very difficult for your child (who models you endlessly) to feel safe enough to open up about what they’re feeling.

I remember as a kid not speaking up so much around my dad because he was always angry.

My mom was easier to talk to because she felt more “soft” and “open” - giving me more room to talk about what i was feeling.

So one of the first and most important step to creating a safe space for your kids to open up is to take the opportunity to do the work yourself, go beyond regulation, and reorganize your nervous system.

You can learn more about how to do that by reading my article, “How To Reorganize Your Nervous System So You Show Up Better For Your Kids.”

2. Talk About Your Own Emotions

Again, as human beings we can’t help but model those around us, it’s just a function of our brains.

Children are learning from you all of the time by observing how you respond to life in every situation.

If you don’t talk about your feelings, children who look up to you for survival will take on the same pattern as a survival mechanism.

They think, “Oh, talking about your feelings must not be okay,” so for them to be “okay,” they don’t talk about their own.

So by opening up yourself to and around your kids about your emotional experience (consistently), you will invariably teach them how to do the same thing.

Not by telling them how to, but rather by showing them through your own behaviors.

3. Communicate That It’s Safe And A Sign Of Strength To Speak About Emotions

We often do not open up about our own emotional experiences because we feel it is not safe or that it is a “weak” thing to do.

So take the time to explain that it is indeed, safe, normal, and in fact, a sign of strength to talk about what you are emotionally experiencing.

This comes down to you, as the parent, understanding and accepting the fact that emotions are a part of the human experience and there is no reason one should feel shame around feeling let alone being a human.

As your child grows, you must communicate to them the normalcy of opening up, making it easier for them to learn and stick with over the long term.

Also, kids LOVE being seen as strong, right? It makes them feel amazing about themselves, so by associating speaking about emotions with being strong you’ll make them WANT to open up more.

4. Frequently Ask Your Children How They Feel

Another reason children don’t open up is that they aren’t even asked about how they feel.

If nobody is taking the time to ask them how they are feeling, they feel like it is pointless to talk about them.

They may even begin to feel like they are a burden when they open up, or that they are not even important enough to be asked about, so this feeling of “not being important” creates more of a pattern of holding things in.

Conversely, frequently asking your child about their feelings makes them feel important, wanted, and cares for which will make it easier for them to talk about their feelings.

The key word here is frequently.

Build habits of asking them about their emotions, not just a one-off.

5. Teach Them “Emotional Language”

Another factor that makes speaking about emotions difficult is simply not knowing how to do it.

How many times have you tried to “feel” your feelings but ended up stuck because you had no idea what the heck you were feeling anyway?

If we don’t have the verbal language to express what we feel, we tend to not do it.

When we think about emotions, most of us think in terms of “Happy, sad, angry, anxious, scared, ashamed, overwhelmed, etc.”

But if you take a look at this emotions wheel below, you’ll quickly see that there are far more emotions than we typically express.

So by just educating your children on the wide range of emotions and how to notice what they feel like you can give them a stronger vocabulary for them to pull from.

And if you aren’t sure how to really explain feelings to your kids, I got you, just click here to read a great article by Amy Morin, “How To Teach Kids About Their Feelings.”

6. Create A Physical “Safe Room”

If you want your child to talk more about their feelings, creating a “Safe room” inside of your own house can be extremely helpful.

When you designate a space for talking about feelings, your kids will more often, and you, use that space more often.

Going as far as creating a safe room also demonstrates to your child the significance of speaking about emotions, and signals that it is wanted.

Paint the walls a nice calm color, keep them clean and spacious and be intentional with using them.

This doesn’t even have to be a full room if you don’t have the space, rather a corner in a room can be sufficient. For more tips on how to create a safe home, check out this article by Dr. Laura Markham, “Sanctuary, Making Your Home A Haven.”

How To Be A Great Listener


Another important factor in creating this safe space for your kids to talk about their emotions is to cultivate a safe space when actively listening to your children when they open up.

Just asking them to open up is not enough, you have to follow through on being a great listener so they feel understood and validated rather than feeling like you don’t understand or listen to them.

So I thought this article would be incomplete without actually breaking down how you, the parent, can be a wonderful listener.

1. Listen With Your Eyes, Ears & Heart

In Chinese culture, the symbol for listening, “Ting” contains the four elements of fully listening.

Those four are, “ears, eyes, heart & undivided attention.”

Be intentional in fully giving your ears to what your children are saying, really zoning in on the sounds that are coming out of their mouths.

You know the kind of listening you activate whenever it’s 3 AM and you think you heard something in the kitchen? Yeah, that kind of listening.

Make full eye contact with your child as they are sharing what they are sharing. This shows them that you’re really there with them and are interested in what they have to say, leading them to say more and more.

And don’t just listen to what they are saying, but feel what they are saying as well by listening with your heart.

Intentionally open your heart, and tune in to what they are saying “in between the words.”

Fully be there with your undivided attention.

2. Don’t “Add Your 2 Cents” Unless They Ask You For It

Have you ever opened up to somebody about something, only for them to input their own biases, opinions, and advice when all you were trying to do was open up?

Yeah, it doesn’t feel great, and it won’t feel great for your child either.

Plus, when you always have something to say that shows you weren’t actually listening to them, rather you were thinking of what you were going to say next.

When your child is done speaking, ask them if they want advice or if they just want space to open up.

Plus, if they feel you are truly listening to them, they will likely want your advice or suggestions.

Good listeners do give suggestions and advice, but they do it in a collaborative and permission-based way as opposed to just throwing it on somebody.

3. Repeat Back What They Say In Their Own Words

It has been proven over and over again that having somebody repeat what you say back, in your own words, makes you feel more seen, heard, and understood.

Nothing is more annoying than opening up only for somebody to use all of their own words and ideas to repeat back and say, “Is that right?”

It feels shallow and like they weren’t listening to you. So taking the time to repeat back what they say in their own words will lead to a sense of validation, which is important for all of us to feel.

4. Use Non-Verbal Listening Cues (Ones That Feel Natural)

Another way to demonstrate that you are listening is using non-verbal cues.

These can be things like nodding, changing facial expressions, eye contact, and attentive posture.

However, it is important that you only do what is natural to you and do not manufacture these, which can feel fake to your child who is opening up, making them feel uneasy about sharing more.

5. Ask Questions, A lot Of Them

A lot of people think that “staying silent”, while others are talking, is great listening, but to the one who is talking, it can come off as a sign of boredom and disinterest.

To show that you are engaged, ask questions frequently.

It's important that you don’t ask these questions in the form of assuming things, but rather in the form of curiously discovering what they are feeling deeper.

Ask questions that challenge assumptions, do it gently, but in a way that truly challenges assumptions that may lead to how they feel.

Questions like, “You said you feel like you’re not loved, but how do you actually know that is 100% a fact?”

6. Pay Attention To Non-Verbal Cues

Also, look out for non-verbal cues.

Changes in tone, body language, eye focus, facial expressions, and other implicit information.

This is a great way to get to the emotions of what they are saying. A good way to listen with your “heart.”

7. Be Up Front About Your Shortcomings

If you are feeling frustrated, frazzled, sad or not having a great day you know you may not be the best listener.

If your child insists on talking when you feel this way, be upfront and communicate that you may not be the best listener right now, but you will still make an effort to be there and listen.

And whenever you don’t “get” something, pause the conversation and tell them what you didn’t get, showing that you are intentionally being the best listener you can be with where you’re at.

8. Focus On Your Breath

Another important factor in being a great listener is to manage your emotions throughout the conversation and refrain from reacting.

A great way to accomplish this is to focus on your breathing patterns as you listen because these patterns always correlate with your state of emotion.

If you notice that you are getting reactive, take the time to manage your emotions by regulating your breath.

And surprisingly, monitoring your breath while listening actually makes you more present and more active in your listening, it’s not a distraction.

9. Listen To Learn, Not To Be Polite

The intention behind your listening is critical to creating productive conversations.

If you are listening because you were taught it’s the “right” or “nice” thing to do, then you cannot create a truly engaging conversation that benefits everybody involved.

Don’t listen to your child to merely be nice to them, rather listen to them because you are genuinely curious about learning more about them and their experience.

This intention alone will create a real connection.

10. Embrace The Uniqueness Of Their Experience

As parents, we want the best for our kids, and we think we always know what is best for them.

This comes in the form of many, as comparing their experience to your own experience. Although this may seem like the best thing to do for them, it is far from truly being so.

When you do this it makes the person whose talking, in this case, your child, not feel heard at all.

Understand that they have their own experience and do not see things the way you do all of the time. Embrace that beforehand and it’ll make listening much more easier and effective.

Other Important Tips To Remember


As I close this article out, I also wanted to share a couple of important tips that will aid in creating this safe space for your kids to talk about their feelings.

1. Show Your Affection For Them… A Lot.

Be open and consistent with your affection for your kids.

Don’t just say things that make them feel loved and cared for, rather do things that demonstrate the love and care you have for them.

When children feel loved by their parents, opening up is far easier.

2. Don’t Judge Them

After talking with many adults who had trouble speaking about their feelings, the main factor was the fear of being judged for opening up.

Whether they were punished for crying, shunned for being emotional, or laughed at for asking questions, they had this fear of being judged, so they opted in to hold things in instead — it felt safer.

3. Be With Them For It All

There will be times when you feel like what they are sharing with you is trivial and not important.

Or maybe they have trouble healthily expressing themselves, and this can trigger you to dismiss what is going on.

Do not do this, as it will lead to them not feeling sear, heard, and cared for.

No matter how silly it may seem to you, it is not to your child.

4. Use Your Empathy Super-Powers

Regardless of what is going on, be intentional with your effort to put yourself in their shoes.

Remember, they are always doing the best they can with what they have and know.

Be empathetic with the process of opening up. It is not easy for everyone, even if you’ve done everything on this list to create that safe space, just know that they may not feel 100% safe.

Be okay with that and anything else that your child feels.

In Conclusion

At the core of our desires, all of us (not just your kids) want to feel seen, loved, and heard. This is something we want to feel deeply.

Living a life without feeling any of these things only makes the human experience difficult to endure.

You are reading this article because you want your child to have a great life, and it’s hard to live a great life whenever you feel like nobody is ever listening to you.

Creating a safe space for your children to open up is one of the most important things you can do for their happiness and well-being.

Just like exercise is good for well-being, so is opening up about your feelings.

I want to close this one out with a question.

What are you going to start doing differently as a parent as a result of reading this article?

Drop it below in the comments, and happy parenting!

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