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Helping Children Understand and Express Their Emotions

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Coping with big feelings can seem overwhelming for little ones and those who care for them. Here is some advice from the experts at the American Academy of Pediatrics.

  • Teach children to label their emotions
    • When big feelings happen, take a moment to identify them and encourage your child to share how they are feeling regularly
    • Share your emotions openly with your child and demonstrate how you cope
      • Ex: “Daddy is upset right now. Can you help me to calm down a bit and focus by taking some slow, deep breaths with me?”
    • Help your child to identify their feelings and allow them to correct you if you guess incorrectly.
      • Ex: “You seem sad/happy/angry right now. Is that how you are feeling?”
    • Praise everyone in the family for good behavior and practicing healthy coping strategies
      • Ex: “Great job sharing big sister! I know you like that toy a lot and it makes me so happy to see you sharing.”
      • Ex: “I really like how you took a break from the game when you noticed yourself getting upset.”
  • Behavior + Attention = More Behavior
    • For better or worse!
      • Make an extra effort to praise children with attention when they are behaving and doing things you like
        • Ex: “You are doing such a great job being patient in this long line! That makes mommy so proud!”
        • Ex: “I love when you share your snacks with your brother! What a great big sibling you are!”
      • On the flip side, remove your attention when they are misbehaving and doing things you do not like

As always, if you have any questions or concerns regarding identifying and coping with emotions, please contact your pediatrician. Here are some helpful links from the American Academy of Pediatrics:

https://www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/preschool/Pages/Tips-to-Survive-the-Terrible-3s.aspx

https://www.healthychildren.org/English/family-life/family-dynamics/communication-discipline/Pages/How-to-Shape-Manage-Young-Child-Behavior.aspx

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