Ms Debjani Chakraborty, Founder of MetaMind, says emotional well-being is an important priority for good health. On the subject of kid’s emotional quotient, she considers it very important for parents to acknowledge the emotions children are going through without necessarily going into the right and wrong parts of the emotion. Here, she shares some crucial insights that parents can benefit from when dealing with teaching their little ones about emotions.
Children find it difficult to handle and comprehend emotions. When we validate their emotions, we teach them the essential skill of accepting them rather than suppressing or ignoring them, which in the long run can become unhealthy. I see too many parents, instead of validating, teach them to brush off their feelings which only adds to their level of aggression, turmoil, and suffocation when they reach the adolescent stage.
How To Validate Children’s Emotions
Validation is a way of letting your child know that you understand how they’re feeling, whether you agree with it or not. This is an important aspect of feeling connected and supported. Here are a few things to keep in mind.
- Listen to them without giving our judgements and make them feel that we understand their feelings.
- Body language, words and feelings should match.
- Do not laugh their feelings out.
- Be an appropriate role model. Children see their parents and learn.
- Validation does not mean that we have jumped to provide solutions or a reason. The child will learn that you are interested in reason finding or justifying and not listening.
- Sometimes the same can be taught through stories in which characters show such validation. Children learn faster through stories.
Teaching Children How To Recognise Their Emotions
Teaching kids how to identify their emotions also is necessary. Children should know what each feeling represents so that they can differentiate between feelings:
- Parents should help a child label their emotions by asking them what they are feeling exactly.
- Share their emotions with the child, like I am angry, I am happy, or I am sad, and express these feelings with appropriate facial expressions. Body language and expressions act as cues.
- Storytelling works well here, too. Books like the Intelliskills I Am Series introduce children to various emotions and make them adept at important life skills.
Guiding Children To Express Their Emotions
Emotions of any type need an expression rather than suppression. Emotions need to be expressed in a healthy and safe manner.
- Parents are children’s role models. Share personal stories with children as to when you feel an emotion, what you do or how you express it.
- Parents must avoid expressing violent reactions in front of the child.
- If an emotion gets expressed in an unhealthy manner, revisit the same once the child settles and ask the child whether the same could be done in any other way.
- Give alternatives to the child for healthy expression. If they get angry, instead of damaging things or screaming, what else can they do? Avoid giving too much attention to the wrong expression.
- Appreciate and encourage healthy expression in children. Reinforce in ways the child would like.
Teaching Children To Understand Others’ Feelings
Children may seem self-centric, which they are, but they can also understand what others are feeling. Developing empathy is much needed in today’s time:
- As a family, talk about feelings and emotions with the child, whether it’s a boy or a girl.
- If hurt, explain to the child what happened and how this hurts them.
- Ask them questions like was it right to hurt someone, and encourage self-realisation. Let them introspect how they would feel if someone did the same to them.
- When a parent hurts the child, the parent must express their genuine sadness in doing so.
Another important aspect is to know that feelings don’t always need an intervention at that very moment. Parents can re-visit the topic once the child seems settled.
While talking about conflicting feelings or difficult feelings, the child may not want to face the parent. It would be a good idea to talk to them while they are playing or have a side-to-side sitting arrangement instead of face-to-face.
Let’s Use Emojis To Demonstrate Emotions
- Give them magnetic emojis for the fridge. Let them use these fridge magnets to express themselves in various situations. For instance, if they like the food today, let them choose the 😋 emoji to put up on the fridge as a way of thanking the one who prepared the meal. You can in turn give them a 👍 when you think they did a good job!
- Cut out masks of various emojis and use them during story time. You can hold these masks up or ask your child to hold them while narrating various experiences of storybook characters. Use ice-cream sticks and cut-outs from chart paper to create these emoji masks of your own.
- You may find yourself clueless about what’s going on while dealing with temper tantrums or fights with friends or siblings. This is a moment when it’s tough to understand what your child wants. Wait for them to calm down and let them pick up an emoji badge or mask to express their feelings.
When children have a strong emotional quotient from a young age, they will feel more confident in expressing themselves in a healthy manner. This will help them improve their communication skills and interpersonal relations. And now that you know they are taking their inspiration from you, keep giving them big smiles and watch it reflect on your child’s face!