How Kids Process Feelings

How Kids Process their Feelings

Understanding How Your Children Process Feelings

by Amy Egan

I am extremely fortunate to co-lead life coaching groups for women with a dear friend and fellow life coach.  Not only is the power of the group amazing and not only do the members learn from the coaches and from each other but we coaches also learn from the members and from the other coach. So what I am going to write about today is something I learned from my fellow coach, Robin.

“Sue”, a mother in one of our groups was bemoaning the fact that her thirteen year old daughter, “Kelly” seemed to share aloud many of her emotions, ideas, worries, hurts and disappointments. It seemed to Sue that he daughter was attempting to download her every thought upon her mother or anyone else who may be in ear-shot  and it was driving this mother crazy. It was especially difficult for Sue when her daughter was upset about something. It felt to Sue as if Kelly went on and on and on. And since we all know that every mother is only as happy as her saddest child (which is not to say that this is the way it should be, only the way it often is), Kelly’s painful emotional purges seemed to cause Sue great suffering.  Sue also commented that her teen son handled emotional pain so much more efficiently.  When he had an issue, he would bring it up, do his brief moaning, and then appear to move on.  Sue was wishing Kelly would be more like her son and learn how to work through emotional pain “correctly”.

As a parenting coach, I had my arsenal of advice in my back pocket.  I told Sue all about listening, validating and making sure that Kelly felt heard. When Kelly felt heard, she would be more able to move on. (I am a true believer in this  method used in the “How To Talk So Teens Will Listen and Listen So Teens Will Talk” book by Faber and Mazlizh!)  And though I am glad that I shared this advice, Robin shared some of her Myers-Briggs certification expertise with Sue, teaching Sue, me and, I suspect, all the group members, something extremely valuable.  Robin taught us all that when it comes to processing problems, there are two categories of people. There are those that process internally and those that process externally. Neither way is better than the other. It is just the way we are individually wired.

We also reminded Sue that Kelly was going through the most hormonally influential, potentially awkward,  most difficult peer relationship time of life.  Coupled with the knowledge that Kelly was an external processor and that it was best for Sue to simply listen and validate Kelly’s feelings, Sue left the group coaching session with a new spring in her step.

I am happy to say that the following week Sue had good news to share.  With her new understanding of Kelly’s processing style and the knowledge that she was not responsible for fixing Kelly’s issues, only listening and making sure Kelly felt heard, Sue had a much smoother week with her daughter!

I share this information with you because I feel many, many parents may find it helpful.  If you have a child that spews their emotions, take heart, they are likely an external processor. Your job is not to make them happy, but help them process by listening and helping them to feel understood. And isn’t that a relief? Try it and see if life doesn’t become a little better around your house.  Keep in mind, it may take some practice  and getting used to and it may take your teen time to realize you are handling their outbursts in a new way.

~ Happy Parenting!

Amy Egan - Ask Amy Column - North Texas KidsAmy Egan is a parenting consultant and life coach. She coaches privately, loves to speak to parent organizations and hosts several weekly life coaching groups for women and moms. If you are interested in private or group coaching contact Amy at or Like her parenting page on Facebook. Amy Egan – Texas Parenting.


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