Much like your children progress through a series of physical development milestones – rolling over, crawling, standing, walking, and beyond – they also progress through a series of emotional development stages. As children develop emotionally and socially, they begin to build their emotional intelligence. The term emotional intelligence relates to how children understand and cope with emotions, such as anger, sadness, confusion, or fear, and also how well they relate to others and form strong friendships.
Emotional development can be hard on young children, especially when they struggle to put into words what they are feeling. They know they are upset, but find it difficult to tell you why. As parents, it’s important to help them learn strategies to work through situations where they may be feeling one of these strong emotions.
Simple Tools for Helping Children Manage Emotions
When your children are upset, frustrated, or scared, you want to help restore the calm. It’s helpful to have a “toolbox” that your children can reference when they are feeling the effects of their emotions. Teach them these simple techniques to pause and react calmly.
The Turtle Technique
The Turtle Technique helps children separate their actions from their emotions.
- Recognize what you’re feeling (anger, sadness)
- Think to yourself, “Stop”
- Tuck inside your turtle shell and take 3 big breaths
- Untuck when you are calm and find a solution
Big Dragon Breaths
Dragon breaths help children calm their anger and begin to self-regulate.
- Find a quiet place to take a break
- Take big dragon breaths that fill your belly slowly
- Slowly blow out your dragon fire
- Repeat 3 times
Be a Bucket Filler
Being a bucket filler (and not a bucket dipper) helps children understand their own feelings and the feelings of others. Share this story with your children to demonstrate how their choices, words, and actions can affect others.
Why We Can’t Dismiss Children’s Emotions
When a child is having an emotional reaction to a situation, you may try to turn his feelings around with a quick response. “Don’t worry so much!” “You just need to calm down, it’s fine.” But, sometimes your rushed words can do more harm than good.
Wendy Young, Child and Adolescent Therapist and Early Childhood Mental Health Consultant, outlines fives reasons why we can’t simply dismiss a child’s emotions.
- Children begin to not trust their emotions
- Can cause children to become confused about what they’re feeling
- Children believe their feelings are misleading or inaccurate
- Children believe their feelings are not acceptable
- Can cause a missed opportunity to learn how to handle emotions
When a child’s emotions are minimized, they are left to understand and manage their feelings all on their own, which can make emotional development in children overwhelming.
U-GRO is committed to helping young children develop life skills that promote self-confidence, self-identity, and problem solving. Learn more about our Life Skills curriculum.