Whether your child has recently gone through something traumatic or she just seems to just be sad or angry, as a parent you want to be able to help her work through those feelings. Sometimes the best approach is a roundabout one; it can help to have your child actively do something in order to cope with events in their lives. Use some simple activities to help your child express the way she feels.
If your child has been through a traumatic experience, playing out what happened can help him understand the way he feels. Use toys to re-enact the situation; fire engines, police cars, ambulances, and building blocks could help you set up the scene. Have your child use a doll, stuffed animal, or puppet to express how he felt during and after the event that occured. Encourage your child to create skits or shows about what happened, and revisit the occurance often; this will make it easier for your child to talk about.
Write a Story
Have your child write a short story. It could begin with a significant event, or could just be about the normal struggles of your child's life. This will help your child get her feelings out on paper, and may end in your child talking about her feelings. If possible, help your child come up with a happy ending; this will increase hope in your child and provide something for her to work toward.
If the event occurred to your family or to a group of people, consider having a discussion to talk about it. Begin with someone who is comfortable discussing what happened. Try to include each member of the group and allow each person time to talk about what happened; also provide time for people to respond to each other's feelings. Sharing your feelings will help your child understand that it is acceptable to talk about the way he feels.
Encourage your child to play games to help them master events in their lives. The child should invent a situation or disaster in whatever detail they are comfortable with, and then imagine the outcome of the event they have created. If needed, help your child come up with a positive outcome rather than a negative one.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, drawing pictures of an event may help your child to express her feelings. Ask the child to draw whatever comes to mind, or you could give her a certain topic or question. When your child is finished, talk about what she drew and why. For younger children, consider using picture books to stimulate their imaginations and drawings.
Physical activity can be a helpful way to relieve stress in your child, and contact with other people can provide a sense of security during a tense time. Games such as Ring around the Rosie, Red Rover, Duck Duck Goose, and London Bridge can provide contact and excercise and help your child cope with the anxiety in her life.
Using your daily life, look for opportunities to talk about your child's feelings and teach coping skills. If your child is angry explain that you understand and use techniques, such as deep breathing or quiet time, to help him calm down. If you and your child observe someone else that is upset, take your child along and help that person become calm. This shows your child that he is not alone; everyone gets angry or sad sometimes.
More Things You Can Do
The National Institute of Mental Health and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommend that you, as a parent or caregiver, let the child know that you love them and that it's all right for them to feel upset. Also remind them that they are cared for and the event was not their fault. Let the child know that it is acceptable and normal to feel sad or cry about what happened.