Children are born with emotions, but they are not born knowing how to manage them. They learn this from YOU! While this can feel overwhelming, it can also be an amazing opportunity to spend quality time with your child developing a home where all kinds of emotions are welcomed, understood, and appropriately expressed. It’s never too early to start teaching children about emotions and to start modeling healthy emotion regulation strategies. During the early years, it’s all about teaching the vocabulary and providing space where conversations about emotions can take place. Here are some simple ways that you can help your child to start thinking and talking about emotions. Children as young as two or three years can greatly benefit from these strategies:
Whiteboard family feelings check-in: grab a mini magnetic white board from the dollar store that you can keep on your fridge. Divide the white board into squares – one for each member of your family. Make it part of your morning routine to go to the fridge and check the feelings board with your child. Have each family member draw a simple face that shows how they’re feeling that morning. Here are some examples of simple faces that even toddlers can recognize and understand (happy, sad, mad, surprised). As children get older, you can add more nuanced feelings like disappointed, anxious, excited, unsure, frustrated, etc. By using the whiteboard as a daily check in, you will be teaching your child that each family member has feelings, that it is part of family life to share how we are feeling with each other, and that feelings can be different depending on the day. The great thing about white boards is that they are erasable! As we all know, feelings can change during the day too – here is another great teaching opportunity. Maybe you will change your drawing during the day, and then you and your child can have a conversation about what might have affected your feelings. This is excellent modeling for your child and helps him or her to begin building a healthy understanding of emotions.
Look out for strategy number #2 next week.