Emotions are messages sent by the brain to tell us if the situation we are in agrees with us or not. Thus, if the situation gives us discomfort, we will adopt a new behavior to modify the situation. It is therefore important to remember that children should not be restrained from experiencing emotions, but rather provide them with good ways to express them.
Indeed, when a child is in control of his emotions and manages to manage the intensity, it allows him to better react to different situations in life. Good emotion management is associated with maintaining good relationships with others, better conflict management, and academic success.
Recognize the emotions
Avoid labeling your child based on their feelings, saying, for example: “He was always angry” or “She does so because she is shy ” … A child too often believes what is said about him and to comply with the way he was labeled.
- Teach your child basic emotions such as joy, sadness, anger, and fear. More complex emotions such as disappointment, guilt or melancholy will be learned later.
- Help your child recognize the basic emotions. Make him notice the body language associated with each emotion: frowning when we are angry, smiling when we are happy, tears when we are sad, eyes wide open when we are afraid, etc. Knowing how to read the emotions of others on their faces will facilitate their social relations by allowing them to adapt their behavior to the situation.
- With your child, have fun in front of a mirror to imitate different emotions. He will be able to know himself more in the expression of his emotions. You can also create an album of emotions with your child by cutting up various faces in magazines.
- Teach your child to recognize what is happening inside him when he experiences an emotion. However, it can be difficult for a young child who has little awareness of his body. To help him, name the physical signs that you observe at home. For example, you can tell him, “You were screaming and your fists were closed when you saw that your brother had broken your turn of blocks” or “You were shaking and you came to shake against me when you saw the dog run towards you “.
- Ask your child about how he felt after an event that sparked great emotions. His answer will probably not be very developed, but for example, you can ask him how he felt his heart or stomach. He may answer that his heart is aching or his belly is tight, which is a very good start. Recognizing what you feel is the first step in sound emotion management.
- Help your child recognize the emotion associated with how he feels. Name the emotion you are observing, for example: “You’re happy to go to the zoo with Grandma” or “You were sorry your brother broke your construction”. Then encourage him to name his emotion using the “I”, for example: “I’m sad not to be able to go to the park” or “I’m afraid of the big bad wolf”. Your child appropriates his emotions and accepts them.
Control your emotions
There is a difference between expressing your emotion and acting on the stroke of an emotion. For example, your child expresses his emotion if he tells you that he is sad because you do not buy him a new toy. On the other hand, your child acts on the stroke of emotion if he breaks objects, if he hurts another person or if he jumps everywhere without looking what he does because he is angry or excited. Of course, it is normal for a toddler to behave in this way because he is impulsive and can hardly control himself at this age. That’s why your child needs your support to have a healthy expression of his emotions.
Several strategies exist to express an emotion, and the same strategy can apply to several emotions. Your child will have to try several before finding the ones that do him the best. Here are some suggestions you can offer:
- To express your sadness, your child can stick his favorite doggie, isolate himself in his room or talk to you about his sadness. Crying is also a normal way of expressing sadness.
- When he is afraid, suggest that he stick to you and find ways to stop his fear, whether the cause is real (eg, the dog) or imaginary (eg, the big bad wolf).
- If your child is angry, he may take slow, deep breaths, hit a pillow, throw paper balls, or draw anger on a leaf.
- To express his joy, the child can color, go running outside or call his grandpa to tell him everything.
Books are still good tools for teaching emotion management to children. For example, talk to him or ask him how this or that character in a story feels. Make him notice the associated body language. Then discuss the possible causes of their emotions. Ask him what the character could do to be less sad, less afraid, etc.
- Always take your child’s feelings seriously and explain to them that you understand that they may be sad, angry or happy in certain situations. He will feel understood and comforted. He will thus accept his emotion more easily and will be less likely to express it in an unacceptable way.
- If you find that your child reacts too strongly in certain situations, you can tell him nicely. For example, if he cries intensely because his figurine does not stand up and you have the impression that he’s mourning the death of a loved one, calmly tell him it’s too much. Have a positive attitude, help him to calm down and try to play down the situation.
- Try to give him a good example. If you strive to channel your emotions, he will tend to do the same. When you feel upset or frustrated, express some of your feelings out loud and what you do to feel better when something is bothering you. For example, say, “I’m disappointed that Samia is not coming to dinner, but I’m going to watch a good movie instead. It’s a great way to teach your child to calm down and control himself.
When your child expresses his emotions properly, it means he has good control over himself. However, if your child does not seem to be learning to control his emotions, talk to his doctor or contact your CLSC to be directed to the appropriate family services in your area.