Anyone who has parented a toddler knows that big emotions can cause big problems for little people.
Teaching our children about their feelings is very important in the development of healthy emotional regulation skills. Our ability to process and control our emotions has a huge impact on our behaviour and how with interact with others.
Children learn about basic emotions from an early age and most can easily identify when they are feeling happy, sad or angry.
Of course, knowing the name of an emotion doesn’t necessarily mean a child knows how to deal with it, and there are often more complex emotions as play. Meltdowns and tantrums are usually the result of children struggling with big emotions.
Here are 3 easy ways we can help our kids understand their emotions:
Talk Them Through It
Observing your child’s emotions, naming them and empathising will help your child understand what they are feeling. For example, “I see you are frustrated you can’t do X, I get frustrated when I can’t do things as well.”
If a negative coping mechanism has been exhibited, suggest an alternative. “I know you are angry, but we don’t throw our toys. Take a deep breath and we can try again.”
When your child is calm it is good to talk about ways to deal with negative feelings in a constructive way. This might involve going for a walk, talking to a trusted adult or simply taking deep breaths.
There are lots of great resources around that can help kids learn about their feelings and how to deal with them.
Books such as In My Heart or the When I’m Feeling series are a great way to start the conversation about emotions. There are also an enormous range of flash cards, games and feelings wheels, which you can use. Pinterest is a great place to look for ideas!
There are even apps and websites specifically designed to teach kids about feelings.
Be A Role Model
Having the adults in their life model how to constructively deal with emotions is one of the biggest ways kids will learn. Talk to them about times you have been scared or shy or anxious and what you did in those situations.
Start a ritual of talking about each other’s feelings at the end of the day. This is a great way to help kids process their emotions. You could ask them to give an example of when they felt happy, frustrated or scared throughout the day and what they did in that situation.
This provides the opportunity to reflect, problem-solve and develop coping mechanisms. Don’t forget to share yours too, as this also helps your child understand that everyone feels emotions. This in turn builds empathy, another very important emotional skill.
Helping your child understand and manage the wide (and often overwhelming!) range of emotions we experience is invaluable in developing their emotional intelligence.