Practical Ways to Teach your Kids How to Express Emotions
by Sharon Asibor-Swarn
If you are scared your kids don't express their emotions, your fear is rational.
Expression of emotions is part of emotional intelligence that every kid must know.
Failing at expression of their feelings, can make your child feel lonely and dejected.
So, it is absolutely necessary as parents that we teach our kids how to manage their emotions, understand their feelings and express it to the world.
HOW DO CHILDREN EXPRESS EMOTIONS?
Kids can express their feelings through facial expressions, through their body language, their behaviour and play. While sometimes they may act out their feelings in physical, inappropriate or problematic ways.
As children, we observe and feel a lot. We are new to the world and everything we learn is through our social interactions and relationships.
"Toddlers, by the age of 1, start feeling and responding to different emotions they feel."
As parents, we have the responsibility to shape our child's future. And by having the "emotion talk" with your child, you can help them identify their emotions and teach them how to effectively cope with what they are feeling.
It would help them be empathetic and supportive of others, have good mental health and well-being and feel more competent, capable and confident. They will also perform better in school and their career.
So, here are seven steps to build your child's Emotional Quotient:
1. Identify your child’s behavior and body language
Once children start experiencing their own feelings, they react in various ways, like hitting, yelling, or crying when feeling angry. If every time your child cries you try to appease them, you're just putting a bandage on a situation instead of helping them solve a problem.
Often, kids don’t know what to do when they feel sad so they become aggressive or exhibit attention-seeking behaviors.
Tune into your child’s feelings by looking at their body language, listening to what they’re saying and observing their behaviour.
2. Name the feelings
Naming feelings helps kids learn to identify them. They need a word to associate with a feeling. When children develop ‘emotional vocabulary’ they can talk about their feelings. This way they express rather than react
You can also use emojis to teach them feelings.
Use phrases like this
"Today, I felt ________ when ________ happened."
“You were angry that mommy took away your toy” and mimic the facial features of being angry.
“You are sad because a playdate can't happen”
Fun activity: During bathroom routines, have children look in mirror and practice making mad/sad/happy faces to teach them.
3. Teach them to identify others’ emotions
Once they learn to identify their own emotions, they should learn how to identify what others around them are feeling. Young children think the world revolves around them so it can be an eye-opening experience for them to learn that other people have feelings too.
Talking about other people's feelings also teaches empathy. Tell them how others might be feelings, for example “Your brother bumped his head on the wall – how do you think he feels?” or “Mommy is sad too”.
5. Teach them Coping strategies
There are many coping mechanisms that your child can learn to resolve their emotions.
Self-timeout is very helpful. Ask your child to stop reacting and take a self time-out. They are forced to use their words rather than action and helps them cope with emotions.