Helping Children Express their Emotions
Posted on April 10 2021
Often children who act out through biting or hitting or what society calls misbehaving, are often a call for help as the child lacks the ability to communicate their needs and emotions. Teaching your child the skills to express their emotions and communicate their needs is an amazing gift to give them and a very important life skill indeed.
So how do we do that?
As we have previously discussed one of the most common ways to teach our children about emotions, empathy, and how to deal with their emotions is for us to model the behaviour and emotions in the way in which we would like them to behave. We are our children’s biggest teachers.
Naming the feelings as our children or we are experiencing them is a great way for them to learn. Children can often confuse their emotions and use them in the wrong context so using expressive words as you are doing day to day tasks around the house can really help. For example, “gee I’m feeling very frustrated right now as I can’t find the lid to this container!” Doing this will teach your little one how to use the right emotions in the right context.
Talking about how you can express feelings is very important in helping your child learn how to express their emotions. We have a fantastic activity in our next Busy Book due out mid 2021 which is extremely helpful with this and will give them the tools and creative outlets to express and process those emotions. For example when you are angry you might like to jump on the trampoline (to jump the anger out).
We have previously talked about connection before correction. It’s so important so we are repeating it again here. Staying calm yourself, connecting with your child by calmly talking to them about how they are feeling, and offering your support in a hug or just your presence helps them to learn that these big emotions can pass and that it is ok to feel them.
As they start to master these skills you might like to talk to your child about the big emotions they are or were feeling and ask them how they think they could of handled a situation differently. This will get them to start thinking about emotions, feelings and consequences themselves. Our next Busy Book due for release in mid 2021 will also be of assistance with this.
How do you feel about helping your children deal with and work through their emotions? Would you like us to delve deeper into any of the above or past posts on emotions?
Haven’t yet got a Busy Book to help your child learn emotions? Not to worry our Colours Shapes Patterns Busy Book has two great activities that can assist with this and we have a new book coming out soon that will delve into this deeper.
What is empathy?
Empathy is the ability to put yourself someone else shoes to understand how they are feeling, what they may be going through and therefore react appropriately. It's a complex emotion and can take many years to learn, however most children start showing signs of empathy around 18 - 24 months old. Being empathetic can help a lot in life as empathetic people are more likely to be kind, thoughtful and considerate. So how to we encourage empathy in our little ones? Here are a few little tips:
Discuss emotions and feelings of yourself and other people with your little one. Our various emotions activities in our Busy Books can help with this. Asking them how they think so and so may be feeling is a great way to encourage them to start thinking about other people and the fact that others have feelings too.
When you see your child expressing their feelings, stop for a moment, get down on their level and talk to them about it. Saying things like, “wow I can see you are feeling really angry right now” or “yay look at how happy you are”. Eventually you can start asking them what they are feeling, for instance “I saw Joey took that ball off you, how has that made you feel?”. You can even go as far as saying things like “I can see you are really angry that your brother took that toy off you, but when you hit him it made him feel really sad when you hit him. What could you do differently next time?”
Praising compassionate behaviour helps them understand the happy feelings and what they have done right. For instance “look at your sister smiling, she is so happy that you shared your blocks with her isn’t she”.
Talking to your child about their tone of voice is also a great way to of teaching empathy and consideration. Explaining that talking in an angry demanding tone doesn’t make you feel happy or feel like helping your child when they speak to you in that way. You can demonstrate the different tones back to your child and make it into a fun game.
A hard one for us can be controlling our own anger. We can all get very frustrated and upset at times from our children trying behaviour but we need to model appropriate behaviour to our children. Saying sorry to our children when we get angry is helpful in teaching them to be empathetic.
Having your child participate in daily tasks around the house is also a great way to teach empathy. Praising them for their help and explaining to them, as an example, feeding the dog has made the dog very happy, see his tail wagging, lets your child see how doing every day tasks help others in life.
Mimicking facial expressions is another great way to explain emotions and display empathy to little ones. You can make a really fun game out of it and again use the emotions activities in our Busy Books to help with this.
Developing empathy can take time and some children may not start to show signs of empathy until ages 3-5 years old, and thats ok. Keep working on the above and go at your childs own pace.