What’s going on
Infants and toddlers often express their emotions through their bodies by tensing or relaxing their muscles or by crying, screaming, smiling, and cooing. As children enter preschool, they gain more control over how they express their feelings. They may still throw a tantrum from time to time, but they’re also learning to talk and they may start using words to express their emotions if they learn how. Children’s brains are growing quickly during this time and by preschool, some children have the ability to control how they express their feelings and can use words (instead of just their bodies) to tell other people what they are feeling. However, they’re still developing this skill and learning the complicated rules of when and where and how to express different feelings.
Learning how to express our feelings effectively means understanding that how we show other people our feelings depends on a number of things:
Who we are with – mom and dad, grandma and grandpa, friends, teachers
What we express with – our bodies, our words
Where we are – at home, at school, at the grocery store
When we express – during quiet time, when mom is on the phone
How we express – loudly, softly, with our face, with our arms
How to help your child
Support your child’s ability to express emotions effectively by trying these tips at home:
- Talk about your family “rules” for different feelings. What do we do in our family to show it when we feel angry? Sad? Happy? Loved? Explore together different ways to use your bodies and words to express feelings, and imagine you’re in different places. “If we’re mad at home, what can we do?” “If we’re mad at school, what can we do?” “If we’re excited in the library, what can we do?”
- Turn your family’s feeling rules into a book. Start by thinking about a list of feelings your child has throughout the day and create one page for each emotion. Together with your child, scribble, draw pictures, or write words that show or describe things you and your child can do when you have different feelings.
- When you read books together, discuss whether book characters are showing their emotions in ways that you show them at home or in different ways.
- Role-play or use dolls or action figures to act out challenging situations that might arise during the day (e.g., feeling disappointed when a friend does not want to play, feeling angry when someone else takes your toy). Help your child act out things to do and say when those scenarios arise.
- Preschoolers are beginning to understand jokes. To help them understand the “rules” for expression, try making some jokes. “Mommy was really mad at her boss today. Should she go into her boss’s office and yell real loud and stomp her feet?” “When your sister is really sad, is it a good time for daddy to do the happy dance?”
Original Source: Fisher-Price
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