While it can be easy for adults to forget this, children experience emotions just like everyone else. In fact, for many children, emotions can feel even more intense and overwhelming because of how new they are to them. One of the most important aspects of healthy childhood development is learning to handle emotions well, and as a parent you have a unique and powerful role in teaching this skill. Here are five simple tips for helping your children learn how to manage their emotions.
1. Talk About Emotions
First and foremost, teaching children how to name their emotions is important. Without the language to name what they’re feeling, they might find themselves stressed out about why they feel a certain way, so equipping them with the right words to express it is a great way to care for them. It’s also important to periodically talk about emotions as the opportunity arises in the casual conversations and interactions you have with your little ones. This will help establish over time an openness to discussing matters of the heart, because you don’t want things like emotions to become taboo subjects in the home.
Encouraging positive emotions is one key aspect of helping your children grow in their emotional development. While emotions can’t always be controlled with the sheer force of will, positively affirming when children are feeling happy or excited can help them recognize what emotions to hang onto. For example, if your children attend a learning centre or other Pymble day care facility, you can remind them where they’re going that day and ask, “Are you excited to go to daycare today?”
3. Make Room for Negative Emotions
If encouraging positive emotions in children is important, making room for their negative emotions is equally or more important! Remember that emotions are natural and mostly involuntary, and there’s a big difference between feeling something and acting on it. Making room for your child’s negative emotions means avoiding language and responses to them that might make a child feel ashamed of a feeling, because shame will only compound negative emotions and close your child off to talking to you about them. It’s also important to tell children out loud that it’s OK and normal to experience such feelings; emotions are, after all, just part of being human.
4. Separate Emotions From Actions
On that note, as important as it is to make room for their negative emotions, be sure to teach your children that there’s a difference between what they feel and how they respond to what they feel. This differentiation is the key to helping children learn self-control when it comes to their feelings. After making a statement like “It’s OK to feel angry,” you can follow it up with a statement like “But we don’t want to throw our toys just because we feel angry.” Over time, your little ones will learn that they have the power to respond to their emotions properly.
5. Talk about Your Own Emotions
Of course, you can’t talk about every feeling and emotion you experience, and you have to know where and when to draw the line when it comes to opening up your heart to your children, but it is so important to make sure that they know you are an emotional being, too. This knowledge helps to create a common bond and sense of togetherness, because they will learn over time that you, too, have joys, pains, strengths and weaknesses, just like them.
Incorporating these five teaching methods into your day-to-day routine can reap great benefits for kids in even just a week or two. Keep up the hard work of teaching and caring for your children, and never forget how real their feelings and emotions are.