There is a song that says “into each life a little rain must fall”. It is inevitable that we have bad days to go along with the good and unfortunately, this holds true for our kids as well. As adults, we can have a hard time dealing with our emotions and finding healthy ways to express our feelings. It is even more difficult for children to deal with these things. Our parenting class this month is on helping our child deal with their emotions.
No matter how protective of our children as we may be, our kids will experience pain, sadness, frustration and anger. Working through different emotions can be hard or scary for a child who isn’t sure what they are feeling. It is our job as parents to help our child to navigate the waters of emotion regulation, which is being able to think about how to cope with feelings. Even at a young age, we can help our child to understand what different emotions are and what are the best ways to express these feelings. Emotion regulation is essential for children’s overall well being. We want our kids to have feelings, but to not be overwhelmed by them and unfortunately, mood swings are just a part of growing up.
The preschool age is tough because they are beginning to understand different emotions but they have difficulty regulating them and using the appropriate labels to describe what they are feeling. This age also has difficulty separating feelings from actions. If they feel something, they express it. If they want something that someone else has, they try to take it. If they feel anger, they may resort to hitting. It is very common for preschoolers to use physical means instead of using their words. Teaching children appropriate ways to express their emotions is an important milestone in their development.
One of the first things that you can do to help your child is to teach them how to identify feelings. Teach them the names of emotions. Tell them, “You are feeling scared right now.” or “I know that you are very angry.” Use appropriate labels like happy, excited, sad, mad. This will allow them to identify emotions later. Simply telling a child to calm down or stop crying is not an effective way to help them through emotional stress. You must acknowledge what they are feeling, no matter how unreasonable it may seem in the moment! No matter what, do not belittle your child or make light of their feelings. This will only embarrass your
child and build a wall between you.
Teach your child to use their words. Once you name their feelings, give them the chance to tell you what they are feeling. The situation may seem silly to you, but to them at that moment, it is very real and serious. Studies have shown that kids whose parents talk to them about emotions have better social skills as they get older. You are opening the door for communication between you and your child. If they feel comfortable coming to you and expressing themselves from an early age, the more likely they are to continue that as they grow older. Giving your child permission to feel and express their emotions helps them to feel safe and secure. Think about when you are going through a rough time. Sometimes it makes a world of difference to be validated and know that someone else has been where you are. It is no different for our kids. It helps to know that we aren’t alone in what we are feeling.
Books are a great tool in helping to deal with our feelings. When reading with your child, point out the different emotions that are happening in the story. Show them examples of positive and negative ways the characters are dealing with feelings. Maybe your child would feel comfortable drawing a picture of how they feel. These are ways to start communication, even at an early age.
Growing up is tough. there is something new every day that our kids experience and learn. Starting at the preschool age, showing them good ways to deal with their feelings, will only be beneficial for them as they get older. Be watching for our next parent email. We will talk about different emotions that children experience and some good ways to help them deal with those feelings.