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How We Talk About Feelings

Emotional dev main

Young children may not always be aware of how they should express their feelings. Often a guardian or teacher will have to instruct a child on the proper ways to express her feelings. This is completely normal due to the development of a child’s mind. Young children will frequently react on impulses, such as physical action when upset, and will need to be guided on healthy ways to deal with anger and frustration. A three year old child will act very differently from a four year old because of developmental milestones such as understanding empathy. A guardian or teacher will need to assess where each child is developmentally to help the child learn how to express emotions in a healthy way.

Guardians and teachers can periodically become frustrated when trying to teach a child how to express his emotions properly. Often they may wonder what the best course of action should be to address improper emotional displays. A helpful act that can be performed with a child is involving her in a hypothetical story. The story that is told can include an event that results in a display of negative emotional responses by a fictional character. The child can then be prompted to suggest what can be done to help the fictional character. In addition, guardians and teachers can model and mentor kind behaviors. This allows a child to see emotions in action, which helps her to better understand her own emotions.

A problem that often arises when trying to guide children with healthy expressions of emotion is that young children may not understand why a guardian or teacher is critical of an action; since the child may not have reached a developmental stage yet, she may think her reaction is appropriate for what has just happened to her. While it is important to understand why the child is thinking in a particular way, it is still important that the guardian or teacher remain critical. This fine line of understanding while maintaining a critical lens can be traversed by talking things over with the child who misbehaved. For instance, if a child hurts someone’s feelings and brushes off the action as teasing a discussion could then be held on why teasing is neither fun nor silly. Another way to help a child understand his feelings while still remaining critical is through trying out different scenarios. This is useful in situations where a child gets easily frustrated and responds with anger or frustration. A guardian or teacher can discuss the different solutions to circumstances that cause frustration for a child and a child can also be shown ways to calm down (practicing deep breathing or counting to three when frustrated). These methods allow a guardian or teacher to guide a child while remaining critical of a child’s actions.

When talking about feelings with young children there are some things that need to be considered. The first thing to consider is whether the child is going down the route of becoming a bully. A guardian or teacher should observe the way a child reacts to feelings of frustration towards others and help guide the child to respond with the appropriate action. Another thing to consider when talking about feelings is the possibility of adding a counselor into the equation for assistance. At times a professional is required to help a child learn behavior-management skills. By taking these aspects into consideration, talking about feelings with young children can be very successful.

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