Developing emotional understanding from an early age equips children with practical coping tools to deal with emotional issues, shaping how children approach everyday life pressures as they grow into adults. Young children raised this way, learn how to identify and manage their emotions, as well as developing an understanding of the feelings of others.
Children are not born knowing what emotions are or how to cope with them. Below are five tips on how you can help children from birth to three years explore their own emotions, talk about how they feel, and learn to understand the feelings of others.
- Encourage emotional play: Help children to explore their emotions through play. For example, use a doll or a puppet to help demonstrate physical reactions related to feelings. You could put on a silly voice, make a certain noise or pull an exaggerated face to signify different emotions. Interaction is key!
- Talk about emotions: One of the most important ways for children to learn about emotions is for you to talk about emotions with them. Ask a child how they are feeling, talk about their emotions, and explain what causes emotions. You can also talk about other people’s emotions. For example, you could explain to a child that their friend is sad because she lost something, and that she is crying because she feels sad.
- Be responsive: Listen to and watch how children react to what you are doing – show that you are ‘tuning in’ to them and try to make sense of what they are saying. Affect attunement is when you show a child that you are tuning in to their emotions and feelings, by using your facial expressions, gestures or by making sounds that match their feelings.
- Give praise: It is generally a good idea to give positive praise for good behavior rather than focusing too much on negative behavior – ‘catch them being good’ rather than ‘catch them being bad’! Give them warm praise.
- Deal with tantrums: Validate a child’s emotions but remind them of the rules. After initial validation and boundary setting, ignore the tantrum, and ignore the negative behavior. Remember to give warm attention for any positive behavior.
Coach Benjamin Mizrahi. Educator. Learning Specialist. Family Coach. Father. Husband.
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