As adults, we often forget that children don’t naturally know how to express their emotions. Why is this important? When your child can identify emotions, they are more likely to be empathetic towards others, have self awareness, and manage their emotions in an appropriate expressive way. These are skills that are so important to instill in our children, especially during these times in the world.
I’m going to share with you a few tips for helping your child express emotions. These help ALL children, from the non-verbal, to the easily frustrated, to the ones with strong verbal skills.
Model by giving them examples. Your child looks to you to see how you handle and react to situations. I try my best to be mindful but I can tell you, I have handled certain situations in ways I’m not proud of -but it’s also a great lesson to teach your kids. Admit to your kids when you’re wrong and when you’ve made a mistake because it’s real and it happens. Guide them early on so that when they make mistakes (like we ALL do) they learn how to handle them in a healthy way.
Here are a few examples of daily modeling:
“I spilled milk but it’s okay, I can clean it up”
“It makes me so happy when we take turns”
” Oh no! All the cookies are gone and that makes me sad” (true story)
Listen AND help identify their feelings and others. At times, your child may not have any idea how to express their feelings in words and so it’s important to help them identify the feeling. “You seem angry, you are crossing your arms and stomping your feet. It looks like you are angry because you didn’t get to be first in line” or “You are smiling, are you happy to see grandma?” or “I understand that you are sad because it’s time to go home and you were having so much fun”. If you did not see the occurrence, try your best to help your child identify why they are feeling the way they are. Also, help your child identify the feelings of other children “Molly fell, how do you think she feels?” “What can we do to help her feel better?”.
Books. Books are just so amazing! Aside from learning language and vocabulary, use books to help you facilitate different issues/situations. The visuals and discrete lessons that don’t come directly from you is a fantastic way to start a conversation/ask questions. For example, if your child has difficulty sharing or making friends or taking turns, there are several books that you can search that cover these topics (spoiler alert: I will be starting a book topic series- more details to come soon)
DO NOT PASS JUDGEMENT! It is so important to always validate a child’s feelings. Do not ever call your child a cry baby or tell them their feelings are wrong or to “get over it”. Does it feel good when someone dismisses your feelings?? No. For children, it crushes their spirits and makes them feel unimportant.
Encourage your child with lots of love. Remember that your child is learning. Get down to your child’s eye level to listen and talk with them especially when the situation gets hairy. Most importantly, give them comforting hugs and reassurance.