Teaching Emotions

The Focus  

Young children deal with many of the same emotions adults do.  Children get angry, sad, frustrated, nervous, happy, or embarrassed, but they often do not have the words to talk about how they are feeling.   Instead, they sometimes act out these emotions in very physical and inappropriate ways. For example, when Maggie’s son was frustrated, he threw the puzzle piece and the puzzle.

The Solution

Parents can help their children understand and express their emotions.  The following strategies are some of the ways you can help your child express his feelings:

• Help your children understand their emotions by first giving the feelings names and then encouraging them to talk about how they are feeling.  For example, you might say to your child, “Daddy left on a trip, you are sad. You said you want your Daddy.”  By giving your child a label for her emotions, you enable your child to develop a vocabulary for talking about feelings.

• Give children lots of opportunities to identify feelings in themselves and others.  For example, you might say to your child, “Riding your bike is so much fun. I see you smiling. Are you happy?” Or you might point out a situation and ask your child to reflect on what someone else may be feeling: “Joey bumped his head on the slide. How do you think Joey feels?”

• Teach your children the different ways they can respond to specific feelings, conflicts, or problems. Talk about your own feelings with your children. “Remember yesterday when the water in the bathtub would not go down the drain?  Mommy got so mad and do
you remember what my face looked like when I got mad?  Can you make a mad face like Mommy’s?” Talk with your children about different ways you deal with specific feelings. “When I get mad I take a deep breath, count to three, and then try to think of the best way to deal with my problem.”

• Teach your child to identify and express their emotions in ways that your family and friends find acceptable.  For example, you might tell your child “Sometimes Grandfather is angry when things don’t go well at work.  What does he do?  He sits on the porch until he figures out what he wants to say about it.  You should sit and think when you get angry.”

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