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Tuesday, April 5, 2016

7 Ways to Encourage Self-Expression in Kids

Photo by woodleywonderworks (Flickr)

We all want our kids to grow up and be confident about expressing their thoughts, feelings, and emotions in a logical and organized way. These skills aren't always natural, though. I've found that seven tools help my girls and the kids at summer camp express themselves, and you can use these tools, too, as you encourage your kids, students, or young friends to express themselves effectively.

Conduct an Easygoing and Fun Interview With Your Kids

Sometimes, conversations can be tricky for kiddos. They may not know what to say, be afraid to speak up, or fear saying the wrong thing. Encourage them to talk when you interview them. Fun questions about the best part of their day, which animal they'd be for a day, or what they want to be when they grow up get conversation started and help kids open up about their feelings and opinions.

Introduce Kids to Art

When my girls are in a bad mood but won't or can't talk about it, I pull out art. We paint, color, sing, dance, take pictures, or play musical instruments together. These artistic mediums assist my girls in expressing their feelings and thoughts, and they now have an art therapy tool that they can use for the rest of their lives.

Teach Your Kids to Read Body Language

Body language tells us about what a person's thinking and feeling, but most kids don't pick up on these subtle clues. I role-play with my girls so they learn how to understand, interpret, and use body language to communicate. We sometimes look at photos or watch TV together and try to identify different emotions based on a person's facial expression or how they're standing. We also use a mirror and take turns making angry, embarrassed, and happy faces that help them read body language.

Give Kids Permission to Share Their Feelings

When my girls were younger, I found myself telling them not to feel scared or to calm down when they were excited. In reality, our kids need to have permission to share their feelings honestly. I want them to know that feelings are normal and that they can always come to me and share when they're angry, happy, or scared.

Rehearse Asking for a Favor

Kids sometimes don't know that they can speak up, or they may feel comfortable asking for things they need. I taught my kids to feel comfortable asking for favors. We rehearsed this skill at home and tried it out in safe and familiar settings like our local park before we practiced in challenging situations like an unfamiliar store or restaurant.

Encourage Writing

Journals, blogs, poetry, newsletters, and other creative writing outlets are simply tools that help kids express themselves. I encourage my girls to write in a private blog or paper journal every day. Your kids could also write. Simple interviews, personal anecdotes, and written observations about culture, life, and current events help kids share their opinions, thoughts, and emotions in a concrete and fun way.

Be a Good Role Model

If you want your kids to express their emotions clearly and genuinely, then you need to be a role model. Let your kids know that it's OK to feel sad, angry, or happy, and explain why you feel certain ways. If you can be real, they can learn to be real, too.

Self-expression is something all kids can learn. I've found that these seven tools help train my girls. What tools work for you and the kids in your life?

Find more about the author: Kim Hart

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