Children can struggle with larger-than-life emotions. Not only are they feeling big feelings, but they also are not always sure how to communicate them. It can be easy to see children who are frustrated or overwhelmed by emotions and call it bad behavior. This can be the easy way out in the moment but could have lasting implications. Instead, teaching kids about emotions can help them learn how to properly process them and use them.
Teaching Kids About Emotions
The bear pictured in this blog post is the Whatsitsface Bear. The Whatsitsface Bear is a bear with faces that share a variety of emotions and can be changed to express six different emotions. We partnered with Whatsitsface to share some great tips for you on teaching kids about their emotions. All opinions are 100% our own.
Anger is a healthy emotion with boundaries
So many parents will see an outburst of anger and deal with the behavioral side of it. However, there are some important things to keep in mind with anger. Anger is a natural and normal emotion for children to feel. When there are no boundaries in place is when things get a bit less healthy. Here are a few tips for talking about anger with your kids.
- Teach them it’s ok to be angry. – Let your kids know that anger is a normal emotion. You get angry sometimes and so do they. It’s completely normal to be angry at a situation or a person.
- Teach them the boundaries of their anger. – Anger becomes a problem when there are no boundaries for it. Teach children that it is ok to be angry but hitting, harsh words, and damaging things are not acceptable outlets for anger.
- Give them an alternate. – When you take away the unhealthy ways to communicate anger, it’s incredibly important that you add in positive ways to process it instead. “When you are mad you can’t hit or hurt people. You can take some time in your room to yell into a pillow or draw a picture about why you are angry.” Find simple ways your child can vent their anger safely.
- Teach them how to apologize. – If they don’t handle their anger in the right way, it can be hurtful to someone. Teach children how to apologize if they are angry.
Their emotions are real to them!
Sometimes when children get sad or upset it’s over something that parents may not see as a big deal. It could be over a broken toy, canceled plans, or the fact that the jelly is on the wrong side of the bread. While these items may seem trivial, they are important to your child. Taking time to teach them to manage emotions with small things will help them to manage them when bigger things happen. Here are a few tips for honoring your child’s emotions.
- Teach them how to deal with big feelings. – Whether your child is sad, anxious, or scared, these are all real emotions that can feel too big for them. Take some time to give them healthy ways to handle sadness, fears, and other big emotions.
- Be willing to listen. – Let your children come to you with their big feelings and be willing to listen. Sometimes what kids need most is to be held while they explain why they’re struggling.
- Use feeling words when talking. – Using words like, “angry” “scared” “anxious” and other feeling words can help your child to connect to the feelings they are feeling and communicate them better in the future. Don’t be afraid to include these words in daily life.
Learn through play
Play is one of the best ways to teach children about emotions. Using items like the Whatsitsface Bear that show strong emotions can help children to better understand the feelings they are having. Using play to teach things to children will help them to understand how feelings could work and be processed. It’s important to do this when kids are not upset so they can have fun with learning. Here are a few more tips.
- Use toys to teach. – Playing imagination games with toys can be a great way to teach children about emotions. Using toys to teach children about emotions can be as simple as imaginative play that includes feelings.
- Play a game of emotion charades. – Charades is a great game for trying to pretend to be something else. Instead of naming a character, name an emotion for children to act out. This can help them to see an emotion or even pretend to have it.
Don’t hide your emotions
When many parents go through hard times, they are known to go to the room or a private place to feel big emotions. Sometimes children need to see parents cry to understand it is ok. Learning how to deal with emotions in a healthy way is part of growing up. Watching you process emotions and deal with them in a good way can help them learn how to better handle them as well. Find ways to let your children see you process these feelings in a healthy way.
- Let your children see you cry. – Crying is a natural part of grief or sadness. While some parents will want to hide this hurt from children, it can actually be a bad idea. Children need to see that these emotions are safe and healthy and that there are proper ways to express them.
- Let your children see you angry. – I don’t mean that you live angry, but if you are genuinely angry about something, it is ok to let children see that. The only exception I would put on this is, If you can’t be angry in a healthy and safe way, step away so you don’t teach children the wrong ways to process anger.
- Apologize if needed. – Sometimes emotions aren’t handled in the right way. Take time to apologize if needed. It will help your children to understand how to own their consequences if they don’t handle emotions in a healthy way.
Give kids a comfort item.
Sometimes big emotions need a safe outlet. A comfort item can be just what they need to be comforted when they aren’t in the mood to talk. Items like a favorite bear, warm blanket, or lovey can be just what they need. There are times when kids just want to process their emotions without having to explain them to parents. This is healthy and having a safe item can be a game-changer.