Emotions are simply a class of feelings usually directed towards a specific object and is typically accompanied by physiological and behavioral changes in the body.
It is important for adults, especially caregivers to understand the process behind tantrums, meltdowns, big feelings that young children experience. Rather than ignoring them or finding it stressful to handle, adults should strive to help the child learn to co-regulate their feelings.
Raising emotionally intelligent children is critical and can be done by using day-today interactions as opportunities to teach them to balance their emotions. It will not only help them when they are little and make it easier for adults, but it will also help them long term in life to ensure their well- being and stable mental health.
We as adults,get caught up in the fast paced life, handling multiple things, juggling work and family, health etc that we forget to dedicate that small bit of extra time to explain things to the child or help them navigate their feelings. Sometimes adults get triggered when a child has a tantrum due to their own childhood experiences or lack of understanding of the process.
“When a child is having a tantrum or meltdown, they are doing it because they don’t understand it either, they are seeking HELP from the adult.” This is when the adult needs to be calm, take a deep breath and help the child. At this time, being proactive and prepared helps. Also it is important to remember ” Connection before Correction.”
The extra few minutes we as adults take to explain to the child what we will be doing, who will be there, what to expect etc. goes a long way in helping them be prepared for whats to come and will help them be better prepared to navigate their emotions at that time.
A child who feels validated and is able to express emotions grows up to be someone who is able to do it throughout their lifetime, leading to balance of mind,body, and spirit. It is important to acknowledge and allow for ‘ALL’ feelings and emotions beginning in early childhood, so children feel safe in expressing themselves to us.
Vocabulary we use with the child when they are dealing with an emotion plays a big role in how it will proceed.
It is important to ‘name the child’s feelings’ and never say ‘its not a big deal” to the child when they are experiencing a big emotion. It may not be a big deal for the adult, but it is the most important thing for the child at that time. We can try saying ” I can see that this is making you feel upset/sad/angry/frustrated”, based on the situation.
For example, when we tell a child ” You are ok”, it feels dismissive. Instead when we ask the child, “Are you ok?”, we are giving the child opportunity to express themselves, communicate how they are feeling and this goes a long way in helping build a trusting relationship with their caregiver.
Similarly, instead of “Calm down or Relax”, try saying “I see this is really fun, isn’t it?” You are feeling so excited about it.
This week, we covered vocabulary we can use to help children navigate their feelings and emotions. Stay tuned for part 2 of this series next week, where we will share more ways to aid children be emotionally intelligent.
“There is no separation of mind and emotions; emotions, thinking and learning are all linked”-Eric Jensen