The early years are crucial for your child’s development. It is during this time that they learn about how the world around them works. Along with their new discoveries, they also learn a lot about their feelings and how to express them in the appropriate manner. In this article we share with you the 5 Ways to Help Children Identify and Express their Emotions
Throughout this learning journey, things can get overwhelming for young children who are trying to understand the complexities of emotions. As a result, they may vent their frustrations through emotional outbursts or have a hard time calming down. Although you may find this situation challenging, know that it is all part of your child’s learning experience.
Here are 5 Ways to help your children learning and understanding their emotions better:
1. Name the feeling
The different feelings that your children go through daily may be foreign to them at first, but you can help them out by naming those feelings appropriately. For example, you could say, “Mummy has to go to work, and you are sad to say goodbye” or “You were angry that your friend snatched your favourite toy”. You can also use picture books or videos to point out the various emotions of the story’s characters to your child.
When you teach your child to name feelings when they occur, your child will build an emotional vocabulary over time and get to the point where they are able to identify those feelings and talk to you about them. This will then help them learn the basics of expressing their feelings appropriately.
2. Talk about how feelings can be expressed
The best way to teach your children to express their feelings is to set a good example yourself. Start by talking about your own feelings and describe how to best express those feelings. You can also create opportunities for your child to come up with solutions for various situations, and then discuss why they are or are not appropriate.
Here are some questions you can ask for starters:
Remember how Mummy got mad yesterday because the kitchen sink was clogged up? When I get mad, I take a deep breath, count to three, and think of the best way to solve the problem.
Your brother bumped his head on the wall – how do you think he feels?
You are frustrated because you are having a hard time putting back that box on the shelf. What can you do? I think you can either ask for help or try to do it again. What would you like to do?
As your child grows up, you may also consider signing them up for classes where they are encouraged to express themselves. For example, speech and drama classes provide the best stage for your child to express his or her emotions creatively, through physical movements and facial expressions. Drama class for kids would also be instrumental in boosting their confidence, as well as to improve their communication and language skills.
3. Offer a deep nurturing connection
While babies are soothed by their parents, toddlers and pre-schoolers need to bond and feel connected to mum and dad in order to regulate and deal with their emotions. Thus, when you notice your child getting upset or overwhelmed, the best thing you can do for him/her is to reconnect. This helps you see things from your child’s perspective. This helps you understand the reason behind their meltdowns and allows you to respond appropriately. In fact, experts highly recommend that we hug our children when the going gets rough, as this has shown to do wonders in regulating their emotions.
4. Resist the urge to punish
One of the 5 Ways to Help Children Identify and Express their Emotions is resisting the urge to punish them. Discipline methods such as spankings, time outs, giving consequences and shaming are often used to correct children’s misbehaviours, but these do nothing to help them deal with their emotions. By resorting to these methods, children get the message that their “bad” emotions are to be blamed for their misbehaviours. As a result, they try to bottle their emotions until they get to a point where it “overflows” one day through a meltdown episode.
Instead of using punishment, do help your child to process and manage their emotions in positive ways. You should do that until they are able to handle it all by themselves. Leading through good example can include speaking in a proper tone of voice and not yelling. Giving them activities that allow them to express their emotions can include drawing and shaping with playdough. These two can go a long way to help both of you get there.
5. Praise and practice – often!
Give praises to your child whenever he/she talks about his/her feelings. This brings across the message that he/she did the right thing and that you are proud of him/her for reaching out to you and talk about feelings.
Children should know that it is perfectly fine to express what we feel. They should also be given ample opportunities to respond to their feelings in appropriate ways. You can play your part in this aspect by practising strategies that will help your child express his/her emotions in various situations. For example, you can talk about feelings and coping strategies during dinner, a play date or while grocery shopping. Through the series of events that unfold in each situation, there will be opportunities for your child to express and deal with his/her feelings when interacting with others. The more your children get to do this, the faster they will learn to regulate their emotions independently.
Written by Justina Goh
Part of the focus of MindChamps PreSchool’s curriculum is centred on character building. Find out how this can benefit your child during the early years.