How To Fill Your Child’s Emotional Cup

Sometimes finding ways to support your child emotionally can be hard. Children aren’t always able to communicate their feelings and their frustrations might end up showing up in the forms of meltdowns or unruly behaviour.

I like to use something called The Emotional Cup with my 9-year-old daughter. The emotional cup asks you to imagine that children have a cup that needs to be filled with affection, love, security and attention. When this cup starts to run on empty their behaviour might start to worsen in order to get your attention.

Things that might empty their cup include tiredness, loneliness and isolation, fallouts with their peers and punishment.

How to fill up their cup:

  • Love and affection- Verbal and physical forms such as positive talk and affirmations, “I love you” “I am proud of you” “I can see that you tried your best and your best is good enough.” Physical touch such as hugs are also important.
  • Do what they love to do- Showing an interest in their hobbies or favourite music. My daughter loves doing quizzes so our favourite thing to do together are YouTube quizzes, especially when they relate to her favourite artists. We also bullet journal together which is a great way for us to bond,
  • Meet their emotional needs- This can be in the form of boosting their self-esteem and self-worth by praising their efforts on a regular basis and setting time aside for one-on-one time before bed to allow them to share any worries.
  • Play- This is the most powerful way of connecting with your child but also the one that many parents struggle with due to lack of time or distractions around the house. I must admit that Amber’s dad is fantastic at this and being playful comes naturally to him. It is something which I have had to work at in order to fill this part of her cup. Our favourite forms of play are role-playing with her barbies. Popular ones include outdoor games or games that make them laugh.
  • Quality time- With a younger sibling around Amber has gone from having my undivided attention to sharing me with her little sister, this can be tough for her so I schedule in quality time two evenings a week where it’s just us. We also schedule in a monthly mummy daughter day out which is usually the cinema or a trip to town for brunch.

Filling their emotional cup doesn’t have to cost a penny, the main objective is to spend quality time with them, doing things they love and actively listening when they talk. It can be hard to ignore that phone notification while you’re in the middle of talking, or that reminder in your head about the dishes that are piling up. The main thing is to start with small steps and build up. Could you set a 10-15 minute window before bed to read or journal together? Or cook dinner together by asking your child to read a recipe card while you do the cooking?

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