Hi everyone! A bit more serious post today 🙂 But I wanted to share a bit of my personal/professional experience and opinion on how to help your young child deal with emotions. As you might know, I taught elementary school for a decade and studied childhood education and policy. But more importantly, I am a mom and I have done a TON of research on how to help our children have a healthy emotional mind. I feel that emotional development is JUST as important as physical and educational development, and I feel that this begins at home. I strongly feel that providing your child with an environment in which they are WELCOME to emote, to feel, to process and to be who they need to be lays the groundwork for a healthy emotional mind. It is THE best gift you can give them. Don’t just take my word for it; here is an article about the importance of emotional intelligence in children.
(from article) Too often, we tend to think of our kids as less sophisticated and incapable of processing or understanding the emotional complexities of their world. We think we’re protecting them by not bringing up the trickier, less pleasant subjects. But I can tell you firsthand that kids absorb a tremendous amount. Pretty much as soon as they’re verbal, children can be taught to identify and communicate their feelings. In a trusted environment where emotions are talked about openly, most kids will speak freely about their feelings and are quick to have empathy for their peers.
Here are some ways to help promote and foster emotional development in our three boys:
- Scrambled Feelings Feelings Eggs and book ($15.75)- We got these eggs a few years ago when our older boys were just over 2. We felt it was a really concrete and fun way to explore emotions with the boys at such a young age. The book is fabulous and the eggs are great models of some basic emotions that your little might be feeling.
- Feelings poster (assorted, based on your individual preference)– We like to hang this in a place that is kid-friendly, like the play space as it can be used quite often. I think that giving children examples of emotions and allowing them to point to the one that they are feeling at any given time. Children do VERY well with visual examples so this is a great tool.
- Talk about positive feelings as well as negative- So, I was noticing that I was focusing on the expression and feeling of “negative emotions” like sadness, nervousness, etc because I was worried that these emotions were more difficult to express and process than positive ones. But I feel like it is important to highlight positive emotions as well, especially because I think we overuse “happy” with our kids 😉
- Moodsters Feeling Flashlight and Storybook ($14.89)- We LOVE this super cool storybook with accompanying flashlight that is a great teaching tool for emotions and feelings. The product description purports to “give children a basic vocabulary of feelings and promote simple strategies that help kids handle everyday challenges.” And it sure does! I think Scott actually picked this out for Z a year or so ago and we have used it extensively in our quest to provide for a healthy emotional environment in our home.
- Progressive Muscle Relaxation- There are MANY ways to do this and I am NOT an expert in this, so I feel uncomfortable directing readers to a specific site or technique, but “Google it” if you are interested!
- Feelings by Aliki– OMG you guys! What a throwback to my childhood! An oldie but goodie, I just recalled how great this book was for helping children to label feelings. I just ordered another copy. Can’t wait to read it to the boys. TIP WHEN READING BOOKS LIKE THESE…
- Refer to storybook or TV characters when discussing feelings. It helps to relate how a character was feeling or to ask a child to surmise how he or she was feeling.
- Feelings Flashcards ($12.06)- I have not used these yet but they seem super cool and go along with the poster idea.
- Feeling ball ($10.25)- I love this and it isn’t expensive, but you could make one on your own using a Dollar Store beach ball and sharpie…as you pass it around, a child will describe the emotion their thumb lands on and give an example of a time they felt that way (or that a character in a book might have felt).
- The UnGame- So, this is actually a throwback from Scott’s childhood and I cannot wait to get my hands on this game to play with our boys! Scott describes fond memories of this game, teaching lessons while still being a ton of fun!
Finally from the above article…
When you teach kids emotional intelligence, how to recognize their feelings, understand where they come from and learn how to deal with them, you teach them the most essential skills for their success in life. Research has shown that emotional intelligence or EQ “predicts over 54% of the variation in success (relationships, effectiveness, health, quality of life).” Additional data concludes that “young people with high EQ earn higher grades, stay in school, and make healthier choices.”
Anyway, those are just a few suggestions that I myself have been mulling over when navigating the very tough but important job of foster emotional health in our children. Please feel free to share your own suggestions!