It is never too early to teach your child about emotions. There is so much on our parent to-do list that this is an area that is easy to neglect as often times we think that their social-emotional skills will just come about naturally.
However, like all areas of development we need to teach our little ones about emotions and how to respond to them as well, so they can develop healthy relationships with others as they grow older.
When emotions happen, children need to know what they are. If your little one is mad because it’s time to go inside and they are not ready, let them know that the emotion they are feeling is anger. Give him some tools to cope with anger such as taking deep breaths or slowly counting to 10. Tell your child what emotions you are having throughout the day as you are their primary role model.
Almost any book works as a great tool for working on emotional awareness. As you are flipping through the pages of your favorite story (this is one of my favorites), point out the characters faces and talk about what they are feeling. If there is a picture of a happy baby, point out the smile and label the emotion. You can then model it in real life and smile at your little one and see if you can get a smile back. As your toddler gets older you can make statements such as “I wonder what makes that baby happy?” Then discuss the reasons that he could be smiling. Maybe he just got a hug or is about to go outside and play.
Using dolls, teddy bears, or any of your child’s favorite stuffed friends will work to teach emotions. It can be very simple like modeling for your little one by giving the bear a hug and saying, “The bear is happy when I hug him.” As your child gets older you can expand on this by role-playing with them. Maybe the bear takes a toy from the doll, how do they each feel in this situation? What can they do to solve it?
If you are having emotions in front of your child…that is ok! Take a minute and explain to your child why you are happy, sad, or mad. As parents we often feel like we need to hide our emotions from our children. By doing this you are missing out on an opportunity to teach them that it is ok to have emotions and model for them how to cope.
If you are at the park or grocery store with your child chances are you may hear another child either screaming or crying. If your little one hears them too, take a second and explain to them that the other child is sad or upset. You can brainstorm with them reasons that the child is upset such as they don’t want to go home or they are not getting something they want.
By taking the time to teach your toddler emotions they will learn to regulate their own, identify feelings, and build healthy relationships with others!
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