Big emotions such as anger, fear, anxiety, worry, frustration, or excitement can overwhelm anyone, especially for preschoolers who are still learning about their feelings and emotions. As a parent, you can help your child’s emotional development by teaching them how to identify, express, and eventually self-regulate their emotions healthily.
Helping your preschooler better understand their feelings builds their emotional regulation, maturity, and resilience. Knowing how to self-regulate during extreme stress, exhilaration, or anxiety can also help prevent meltdowns due to emotional dysregulation. Plus, knowing how to handle big emotions prepares them for greater independence, particularly as they get older and encounter new experiences, meet new people, and eventually enter formal schooling.
How to Talk to your Preschooler about their Feelings
One of the first steps in teaching your preschooler about their feelings and emotions is helping them to label their emotions and take the first steps to emotional literacy. You can do this by talking about different big emotions and helping them identify their feelings in different situations.
For example, if your child is sad because they can’t find their favourite toy, you can say, “It’s okay to feel sad. You really miss your toy, and that’s a normal feeling to have.” This not only helps your child to label their emotions but also validates their feelings and shows them that it’s okay to feel a certain way.
Another way to teach preschoolers about their feelings and emotions is to talk about what might be causing them. You can also talk about actions we do when we’re feeling certain emotions, so your child understands what behaviours are acceptable in a situation.
For example, if your child is angry because they didn’t get their way, you can say, “I know you’re feeling angry right now. Are you feeling angry because you wanted to keep playing instead of going to bed? It’s okay to feel that way, but hitting or yelling isn’t going to help. Let’s talk about what we can do instead.” This helps your child understand that their emotions are valid, but also teaches them to react to them and others around them healthily.
Some children may also equate having ‘bad’ emotions (such as strong anger or fear) as a reflection of their self-worth. Teaching them how to talk about their emotions and understand the root of their feelings and actions can help dispel such anxieties. Remember that your child’s emotional maturity is still in its beginning stages – what may seem like a small issue to an adult can feel like the end of the world to a young child. Tantrums, meltdowns, or lashing out when they’re upset are all part of their development, and these behaviours will change over time as you equip your child with a suitable emotional toolkit.
Some other steps you can take to begin tackling big emotions are:
- Use age-appropriate language: Preschoolers are still developing their vocabulary, so it’s important to use simple, age-appropriate language when discussing emotions. Use words like happy, sad, angry, and scared to help your child better understand and vocalise their feelings.
- Be a good role model: Children learn by watching and copying their parents. Model healthy emotional regulation by talking about your own emotions and how you manage them. Apologise if you lashed out, and have a talk with your children about your own frustrations.
- Practise deep breathing: Deep breathing is a great way to help children calm down when they feel overwhelmed. Teach your child to take deep breaths when upset, and practise deep breathing together.
Build your Child’s Emotional Resilience with MindChamps
At MindChamps, we understand the importance of emotional development in early childhood education to achieve mental resilience. Our preschool learning programmes are designed to help young children develop the skills they need to understand and manage their big emotions in healthy ways.
Our holistic S.M.I.L.E.S™ methodology, 3-Mind Approach pedagogy, and 100% Respect, Zero Fear philosophy all help children learn about emotions and practise emotional regulation in an accessible way. Our trained educators also work closely with parents to provide support and guidance in teaching preschoolers about emotions and emotional maturity.