This week, Crescent Moon Bookstore discusses the tender topic of children’s emotions and how parents can help guide kids through the tough ones.
As we write this blog, our Palestinian brothers and sisters are suffering unimaginably at the hands of the occupying Israeli forces. Please consider donating to the Palestinian Children's Relief Fund, a credible organization providing relief and assistance in the region. If you are looking for books that talk to kids about Palestine, here is our latest book listing that celebrates Palestinian stories and authors.
We are one of Allah’s SWT most intricate creations. In the Quran, Allah SWT mentions:
لَقَدْ خَلَقْنَا ٱلْإِنسَـٰنَ فِىٓ أَحْسَنِ تَقْوِيمٍۢ
Indeed, We created humans in the best form. (95:4)
In addition to shaping our bodily form, Allah SWT also honors us with the beauty of our feelings and emotions. He SWT blesses us with spiritual, intellectual, and emotional traits that help us sustain ourselves in this life.
Islam and its teachings do not restrict one from expressing one's emotions. Instead, as believers, we lean in on our faith and acts of worship to keep emotions in check. As Muslims, when faced with adversities, we find ourselves turning towards the One who sees us and hears us. With kids, it's no different. When their emotions get the best of them, they turn to us to make sense of what's happening.
How we as parents react to it now will largely determine how well our children can manage their emotions as adults.
With the proper guidance and modeling prophetic parenting techniques, our kids can learn to regulate their feelings. To learn more about how you can raise a happy Muslim family, click here.
Below, we discuss four practical ways you can help coach your kids to have the upper hand when intense emotions spiral out of control.
Recognize and Validate the Root Emotion
Emotions, whether positive or negative, can overwhelm children if left unchecked. Begin by acknowledging your child’s feelings. By validating how they feel in the moment, you ensure your understanding of their state. So, the first step in teaching emotional control is to help children recognize the emotions and name the feeling.
Are they feeling jealous that their sibling got an A in a test? The Young Muslim's Mindful Book of Wellbeing by Zanib Mian gives us simple steps to overcome envy.
Are they feeling sad about a lost pet? Does Allah Know I’m Sad by Heba Subeh Hyder is an excellent book about sadness and how kids can manage this emotion.
Are they mad about a canceled trip? The book Zaid and the Gigantic Cloud discusses how children can deal with frustration and disappointment.
Teach your children about the various primary and secondary feelings that we experience. You can do this by reading to them Salaam: Mindfulness for Muslims by Humera Malik.
Always encourage your children to be aware of their feelings and communicate the same with you. Identifying what is causing this emotional disturbance is the first step towards helping them have a healthy response.
Embrace the Emotions
Once we have recognized and identified the emotions, we can move on to embracing them in a safe environment.
Suppose your child is disappointed that everybody is out celebrating Halloween and they are not; we need to give room for their legitimate feelings to come out. Sit down with them and accept their outbursts with understanding. Ask if they would like a hug. By hugging them, you accept their emotions and allow them to process their feelings in a space of love and warmth. On that note, here is a valuable article on Halloween alternatives for Muslim families.
Redirect Toward a Positive Response
The next step in emotional control is successful coping mechanisms.
Work with your children during their downtime to put in place a plan to fall back on when they struggle. The plan should include:
- Indicative signs that emotions are getting intense
- A list of simple coping skills to use once they notice these signs
- Simple solutions on how to ask for support from adults, such as writing a note to Mom/Dad if she/he is busy
- Lying down with their eyes closed and practicing deep breathing
- Praying to Allah SWT or doing adhkar to help calm down.
- Talking with siblings, trustworthy friends, or teachers.
- Doing wudhu once or twice and feeling the water cools the intense emotions.
- Doing a relaxing activity (painting, playing with clay, building with LEGOs, reading, cuddling with a pet).
As you develop this plan, ensure your kids have the calming tools at their disposal. If your child would like to read through a favorite book, have the book nearby. Similarly, if they want to paint, let them know where the paint supplies are.
The aim is to prevent an outburst of overwhelming emotions by changing the scene or attention with a neutral activity.
Rethink the Difficult Scenario
Often, it helps to rethink and reexamine the skewed thoughts that go through children's minds.
Suppose a child thinks, “I am the weakest player on the team,” or “I am such a bad artist, I can barely draw.” Help your children move past these debilitating thoughts by reassessing the scenario. You can do this by discussing the following questions:
- Do other kids feel the same way about themselves?
- Is there any factual evidence to back this thought?
- Are your expectations achievable?
- Can the situation get better in the future by some attempt?
- What attempts can you make to improve the situation?
Children learn to identify, redirect, and rethink their responses to intense emotions with practice. Slowly but surely, they will develop a personality that is pleasing to Allah SWT and loved by the Prophet PBUH.
The Benefits of Learning to Control Your Emotions
Islam encourages us not to lose control of our emotions during joyous and challenging times.
A hadith on the authority of Abu Hurayrah in the Muslim narrates, “The Prophet (PBUH) said: “A wrestler does not beat others, but a wrestler is the one who controls himself when he is angry.” (Muslim)
This hadith clarifies that for a person to be victorious, one must balance one’s emotions. And kids cannot acquire this skill in a day. When we model and practice emotional management around our children from an early age, they absorb and adapt our behavior and repeat it when they face intense feelings. For example, instead of throwing stuff when they get angry, they’ll learn to seek refuge in Allah SWT from the whisperings of Shaytan. Cranky Careem Says Alhamdulilah is one of our readers’ favorites when dealing with anger and frustration.
Through adopting healthy self-regulation techniques, children grow up to become personalities who emanate Shukr and Sabr and are inspiring members of the Muslim ummah.
Expressing Emotions in A Healthy Way
While controlling our emotions is important, we cannot deny that it is equally beneficial to express how we feel freely. You can teach your children to express their emotions in a healthy way in several ways. Some of our tried and tested strategies are:
- To express happiness: Kids can physically express happiness by running, jumping, doing cartwheels, or drawing what makes them happy.
- To express sadness: Encourage children to come and talk to you when they are sad. They can also nap, read a book, or spend some alone time in their room doing nothing. Do not stop them from crying if they feel so; it is a natural and primary response to sadness. Reading books on similar themes, like I’ve Lost My Sunnah Smile by Razaida Behram, can be pretty helpful when trying to help children deal with feelings of sadness.
- When a child is afraid: Snuggling or cuddling with family are great ways to eliminate fear.
- To express anger: Expressing feelings of anger in the right way can be quite beneficial for kids. Teach them to scribble on paper, kick a ball against the wall, or punch a pillow when they feel mad.
- Expression through writing: Encourage children to write down their feelings in a journal. Writing can be an excellent means to express emotions healthily and safely. Check out these journals uniquely made for Muslim boys and girls!
These were some of our favorite ways to teach our children emotional management and control. What are some of your family’s tried and tested methods? Please drop a comment and let us know!