Kids can have great big emotions and sometimes they have no idea what to do about them. As parents and caregivers, a difficult part of child rearing can be helping them learn how to express and cope with the emotions they will experience in healthy ways. But how do you teach emotional regulation to a child?
Start early engaging with your child’s emotions daily. Discuss how events make them feel and how they can express that. Depending on their age you may need to teach your child vocabulary to describe their feelings. Validate these emotions and invite them to be creative in their expression, they can use craft, dance, music, drawing, and words. Even uncomfortable and negative emotions can be expressed well and in a positive way.
This leads to an important point, try to distinguish between behavior and emotions and don’t punish emotion. A child may get angry and decide to hit their friend. Their anger is natural but hitting is not socially acceptable. Try redirecting the need to lash out by giving them physical activities they can do, like running in the yard or spinning in place. Learning positive coping skills is a great way for you and your child to spend time together and build their confidence in their ability to deal with big feelings.
Lastly, you may wish to seek your own help with expressing your emotions well. Talking to a therapist can help you learn to regulate your own emotions and cope with difficult situations so that you can be the best guide for your child.
Below is a selection of books that can help get you and your child started learning to express and cope with emotions.
It’s Tough to Lose Your Balloon by Jarrett J. Krosoczka
The Way I Feel by Janan Cain
Today I Feel Silly: and Other Moods That Make My Day by Jamie Lee Curtis