Getting angry, being joyful, being afraid, feeling sad… All of these emotions are universal. We all know them, whatever our culture, beliefs or education are. They can express our happiness or sufferings and are what make us human beings. Children are the same as us, they have to face their emotions, which can be very intense. So, how can we help them understand and manage their emotions in order to feel better on a daily basis? We will discover this together today.
What are emotions there for?
Our emotions bring us to action, they have an influence on our way of thinking, our behavior and decisions. They also help us survive and avoid danger. If a car is coming our way, fear will make us react in order to survive! Emotions are also there to be analyzed and to help analyze others and adapt our conduct. If one of your friends sees that we are angry, he/she will react in a specific way. On the contrary, if our mother starts crying, we will immediately understand that she is sad and be more empathetic. As you can see, emotions are necessary! But we can sometimes feel overwhelmed. It’s often the case for children, as you must have noticed. But it is not a reason for them to withhold what they are feeling. Actually, it is very important to give them means to express these feelings.
How to identify emotions
The first step is to teach your child how to identify his/her emotions. In this respect, take the habit of naming them. Start by basic emotions such as joy, sadness, anger and fear. Make him/her notice: “I feel like you are angry because you are frowning! Did you fight with your sister?” This can help him/her realize what is happening inside. You can also ask him/her questions about his/her feelings when you see an unusual reaction. You can ask what it feels in his/her body when an emotion arises. It can be a tightening of the throat, an acceleration of the heartrate. Like us actually! When growing up, he/she will find it easier to put words on emotions. He/she will eventually accept and master them.
How to deal with emotions
You are certainly familiar with a scene in which your child sees a roundabout in the street and you refuse to go. This can lead to terrible drama and your child throwing himself/herself on the ground while screaming relentlessly. You may feel embarrassed when people are looking in your direction.
This attitude is normal for small children as they are impulsive, and their brain is not mature yet. This is why your child will need your support. Don’t worry, if you are patient and persevere, he/she will learn to manage what he/she is feeling.
Technically, how can you really help? First of all, take your child’s feelings seriously. Tell him/her that you understand that he/she may be feeling sad or angry given the situation. It is important for him/her to feel that he/she is understood. Also have a positive attitude. You can help your child calm down with a little joke. Laughing can help move on to something else.
You can otherwise offer a hug. This technique can help children calm down. If he/she refuses, you can ask if he/she wants his teddy or wants to be alone for a while to listen to music or draw for example… You can also teach him/her how to breathe in and out deeply to calm down.
Tools that can help
If you feel like you need further tools, here are a couple of suggestions.
If your child is more that 6 years old, he/she may love Pixar’s film “Inside Out” (and you may love it too!). You will follow, 11-year-old Riley’s adventures, from the outside and from the inside. It is a very powerful support to talk about what happens inside when we are experimenting emotions.
Yes, you have read this correctly, snow globes can be magical in order to help young children calm down. You can just shake it and watch calmly while the snow falls down! You can also simply fill a jar with water, paraffin oil and glitter, it can do the job!