Teaching Kids to Handle Emotions at Any Age
From the moment a child is born, they start experiencing emotions. Within hours of birth, they start to figure out how to express the uncomfortable feelings of the world, mostly through tears to communicate when they’re uncomfortable. This is the very foundational building blocks of emotion.
As they grow, they learn to differentiate between these things. While they might cry still for food, or when they need to be changed, or scared or bored, their cries start sounding different as they come to understand these are all different emotions. It’s a fascinating thing to watch. You realize as a parent just how big a role you have in teaching your child not just about the world, but about their own emotions, and how to handle them, at any age.
Toddlers should be taught how to put their emotions into words. We start by naming the way they’re feeling in very simple terms. We use words like “happy,” “sad,” and “angry,” for example. We also start to teach them about how to handle overload through a couple of simple methods such as how to distract themselves when they feel upset. This is self-regulation, and it’s something they’re going to need to learn to build on this principle later. But the biggest thing to remember? They will learn how to handle emotions by watching how you handle yours.
Building on what you’ve taught them at younger ages, you now help your child to connect emotions and moods with actions or triggers. They know why they’re feeling the way they do. At this age, you can teach them how to practice mindfulness if they’re particularly stressed. It’s essential to model good behavior strategies in handling emotions. Lots of open dialogue at this stage should include allowing them to ask questions. Crucial here? Validating what they feel.
As children grow older, managing emotions can feel increasingly difficult, especially when you add hormones into the mix. Help your child to see the connections between their health and emotion. Teach them coping strategies such as using exercise, journaling, or meditation. Prioritize open dialogue and conversations about what they see in the media, their peers, and what society tells them about emotion. Tell them it’s ok to challenge these messages.
As your child grows, it might seem complicated to teach them about emotions. The good news? You already know all about them. Be open. Share your experiences. They will figure it out. Who knows, you might even learn a few things from them in the process.