During a normal day, your young child typically experiences a vast range of emotions, including happiness, sadness, disappointment, frustration, anger, laughter, impatience and jealousy.
All these influence her behaviour, but sometimes, these emotions can overwhelm her to the point where she goes into meltdown. Here are five ways to teach her how to handle the frequently occurring feelings in daily life:
Talk it out
Your child’s first reaction when she experiences a strong negative emotion is to act on it impulsively, perhaps by hitting or screaming. Teach her how to use words to express her feelings
rather than to use actions. At this young age, she responds instinctively, so persuade her to think before she does something that lands her in hot water.
As soon as she pauses to reflect on her emotions, her tendency to act impulsively diminishes. Repeatedly tell her, “think before you act.” She’ll gradually learn how to manage her day-to day-emotions more effectively.
Your child doesn’t like to wait for anything. A great deal of her daily turmoil comes from her frustration at not getting what she wants exactly when she wants, or from having to wait for her turn.
Explain that everyone experiences moments where they must wait, and that she should try not to get angry when that happens. Point out that her uncontrolled impatience also affects those around.
For example, tell her: “When you are impatient, you upset the other people who are also queuing in line”. Suggest that when she feels she can’t control her patience any longer, she should turn her attention to another activity altogether.
Get her involved
Suggest techniques that will help her begin to take responsibility for controlling those day to day emotions.
For instance, if you see that she is miserable, ask her to think of things she could do to cheer herself up. Talk these over with her until she comes up with one or two ideas, and then follow them through. The more she thinks about doing something to change her moods, the more she’ll gain control over them. That’s a lot better than letting her become immersed helplessly in her emotions – she needs to learn how to take charge of herself.
Broaden her vocabulary
At this age, your child has a limited range of words she can use to express her feelings. But there are lots of ways she can describes the same emotion, for instance, the feeling she calls “happy” can also be called “good”, “fun” or “great.”
The more words she has to describe her frequent emotions, the more easily she can talk about it to others. So, the next time she tells you, say, that she is annoyed, ask her to think of other words she can use to describe that same feeling. Offer her suggestions. This also helps her get into the habit of talking about her feelings instead of acting on them.
She can also gain a better understanding of her own feelings by considering the emotions of those around her. When she tells you about something that happened in preschool, ask her to tell you how she thinks her friend felt when that event occurred. It may never have occurred to her that others have the same range of feelings as she does – kids this age usually think only of themselves.
This technique heightens her awareness of the emotions of other people, increases her empathy and sensitivity, and helps her manage her own emotions as well as developing her consideration for her peers.