Emotions are a difficult field to navigate for kids and adults alike. Children learn about experiencing and expressing their emotions by observing adults and other kids. However, identifying and dealing with various emotions often has to be taught explicitly.
Here’s an idea on how to teach kids about experiencing and expressing their emotions in 4 steps.
Acknowledge the feelings of the child
Dropping their favorite toy in a puddle can be quite a ‘tragedy’ for the little ones.
Tell the child that you are aware of their feelings and understand the reasons for them. A simple phrase like “I’m so sorry your teddy bear got soaked in this puddle” would be enough.
Identify the emotion and the reaction the child is displaying
As adults, we are familiar with basic expressions of emotions (such as smiling when you are happy, crying when you are sad, etc.) This is not so simple for a child who is just learning to cope with the wide range of emotions.
It is adult’s responsibility to provide the kids with proper vocabulary that would allow them to express their feelings effectively. As soon as a child is displaying an emotion, clearly identify it for them. For example, when a child is smiling you may say “I see that you are very happy right now! You are smiling!”
Provide a reality check
We know that a teddy dropped in a puddle or peers disapproval of a new hair style is not a tragedy after all. Provide them with a gentle reality check after you have acknowledged their feelings. You might say “Don’t worry. Your teddy will be alright. It just got a little wet”
Present a solution or model an appropriate reaction
It’s easy for children to get too extreme about expressing their emotions, especially negative ones. Lead them by example by staying calm and suggesting a simple solution to their problem.
You might say “I know your favorite teddy fell into this puddle, but we can wash it and it will be clean and happy again.” You might want to repeat your suggestion in several different ways until you are sure that the child has understood the message. If a child is displaying positive emotions, make sure you are mirroring their reaction.
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