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Teach Your Children About Emotions

We as humans feel many emotions: happiness, anger, fear, frustration, sadness, etc. As an adult, you have learned how to handle your emotions, but your children have not. Children do not know how to talk about what they feel, so instead, they will to lash out inappropriately and often physically. In order to combat this, you need to give your children the tools to properly name and handle their emotions.

Sad Boy

1. Name the Emotions
Most children lash out because they don’t understand what they are feeling. You need to help them label their emotions so that they can properly handle them. Here are a few methods to help you teach your children about emotions.

  • Children’s books — There are many books that name each of the emotions in terms that children can understand. Find a few at your local library or bookstore, and read them with your children.
  • Songs — Learn a song about feelings that you can teach to your kids. If you don’t like any that you find, go ahead and make up your own by changing the words to a nursery rhyme.
  • Cartoon characters— When you read stories or watch movies with your children, take the time to identify the character’s emotions. Ask your child what they think that they’re feeling, and then see if they can make a face that expresses the same emotion.
  • Real life — Whenever your child experiences frustrating, challenging, or even happy moments, turn it into a teaching moment. Explain to them what they are feeling and help them through it. If it’s impossible to talk to them in the moment, you may need to bring it up in a few hours or even the next day to help them understand what happened.
Girl shout

2. Handle the Emotion
Once your child knows how to put a name to their emotions, they need to know how to handle those emotions. Your job as a parent is to give your child the tools needed to be able to communicate and express their emotions safely and effectively. Make sure that you let them know that it is not bad to feel emotions, but it is bad to act on them in inappropriate ways (ie hitting, biting, throwing things, etc.). Always praise your child when they attempt to communicate and express their emotions in healthy ways. Here are a few methods that are helpful when dealing with emotions. Find one that works for you and your child.
  • Count to 10
  • Blow out your fingers like candles
  • Remove yourself from the situation
  • Use a calm down jar
  • Hug it out (if your child is ok with physical touch)
  • Go to timeout or a “peace corner” for a few moments
  • Listen to relaxing music
  • Make a feelings thermometer or feelings chart and have your point to the emotion that they are feeling
  • Scream into a pillow
  • Color a picture
  • Do 15 jumping jacks
  • Sing a calming song

3. Model Healthy Behavior
Your child learns how to handle different situations by watching you. It is important that you model healthy ways to handle emotions so that your children can also learn how to handle their emotions. Whatever you teach your child, implement in your own life. For example, if you implement timeouts for your child, you should take a timeout as well when you feel your emotions rising. Let your child know what you are doing so that later they can model your behavior. In case you need a little help, this blog details 5 constructive ways to deal with anger.

Boy Crying

4. Properly Discipline
The word discipline means “to teach.” You need to teach your child that there are consequences to their actions. When your child does act out, you have to give them consequences that are equal to the act in order to teach them that what they do does have consequences. It is important that you are firm yet reasonable in your decisions. Remember that every child is different, and it is necessary for you to parent each child differently. Don’t give into tantrums, but don’t ground them for a year every time that they have one. Sometimes it will be necessary to create a diversion to distract your child from the situation or have them leave the room. Remember, practice makes perfect. Don’t get discouraged if you haven’t yet figured out what works best for your child, with a little patience, you will figure it out.