Helping young growing kids understand emotions and deal with them

As parents, it seems like each stage of your child’s development progressively worsens till it reaches a peak and then, all gets better almost all at once. First, it’s the sleepless nights, next is the struggle with solids, then the tantrums that only 2 year olds can make, so on and so forth. Rather than waiting for your child to outgrow the emotional instability of the early years, you can help them deal with it for a saner you and a more stable toddler.

1. Name the emotion

Taking a cue from the movie Inside Out, help a child identify the emotion as they’re experiencing it. For instance, “Don’t feel sad that we have to leave Vishal’s house. We can come back tomorrow.” Or “I know you’re feeling mad right now because I won’t let you use the iPad.”  Helping them use their words to express their feeling is the first step in emotional competence. As they grow, you can increase their repertoire of feelings. “Are you frustrated that you aren’t able to tie your shoes?”

“Were you disappointed we didn’t win the teddy bear at the fun fair?”

“Wasn’t the fireworks display amazing?”

Also not a bad idea – watching the actual movie Inside Out with your kid. 🙂

2. Emoting is normal

Classifying emotions as good and bad won’t help your child in the long run. It is essential for them to see that everyone feels the range of emotions whether they’re positive or not. This helps them feel free to express themselves rather than box them up. Once you calm your child from a distressing situation, you can make a small reference to the incident and explain briefly what happened. For instance, “I know you were really upset when we left India because Grandma and Grandpa couldn’t come with us. I was sad too. We all love spending time with them but our vacation is over. We can call them over Skype tomorrow and say hi, okay?”

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3. Strategize

Controlling emotions is a big part of growing up. It’s certainly okay for a kid to throw a tantrum, not so much an adult. As we grow, we learn to channel our emotions better – typically throwing something or banging doors, neither of which are the recommended outlets. When we get better, we learn to take deep breaths and let the stress out. And this is a good practice with your kids to begin with as well. With my kid, when he’s mad or super frustrated, I ask him to count and take 4 deep breaths. At this point, his focus shifts to the breathing and counting and he usually forgets what he’s mad about or is less mad about it. It almost always works.

4. Visual contexts

Picture books are a great way of introducing the different emotions to preschoolers. And seeing actual emotions increases empathy in kids. Use ordinary picture story books to “read” visual cues. Ask your child what they think the character is feeling at a point in the story. And try to elaborate in context. Use the same technique for media as well – movies, advertisements, and the likes.

Emotional maturity is one of the key steps to a personal and well-rounded awareness. Use these techniques to give your child a head start to deal with their different emotions in a calm manner and to make the best of any situation.

Click here to know how to raise emotionally strong kids…

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