JK Newsletter

May 15, 2016

A little more about big feelings...

Between three and five, children often begin using hurtful words when they are upset, disappointed, or dealing with conflict. Statements such as “you're not my friend anymore, you can’t come to my birthday party," or, "I hate you” are often heard on the playground and at home.

Four-year-olds tend to show extreme emotions; when they are happy, they are very happy and when they are mad, they are really mad. Preschoolers have learned that words can be very powerful. They experience strong emotions and don't always know how to express how they feel. They test out the power of words when they are angry.

So... what can we do as parents and teachers? How can we help develop a sense of emotional intelligence (the ability to identify and manage your emotions, as well as being able to correctly identify emotions in others) in our children? Here are some suggestions...

1) Help your child name his/her feelings. We often only think of teaching common emotions like happy, sad, mad, etc. But there are many other feeling words that children should learn to express, such as the following: brave, cheerful, bored, confused, surprised, curious, proud, disappointed, frustrated, embarrassed, silly, excited, uncomfortable, fantastic, worried, friendly, stubborn, generous, shy, ignored, satisfied, impatient, safe, important, relieved, interested, peaceful, jealous, overwhelmed, lonely, loving, confused,

tense, angry, and calm.

2) Give your child the opportunity to identify feelings in others. If a child falls down on the playground and begins to cry, you could say, “Johnny fell down and how he’s crying. How do you think he feels?” This helps develop your child’s empathy skills. Studies suggest that the ability to be empathetic (to take the position of the other person) is key to developing emotional intelligence.

3) Talk about your own feelings with your child and what you do to handle them. Give him/her positive strategies to deal with big feelings like being angry or frustrated. You could say, “Do you remember yesterday when Mommy could not figure out how to unstop the bathroom drain? I closed my eyes and took deep breaths because I felt myself getting really angry and frustrated.”

4) Talk about incidents that are common or that your child will remember. For instance, “Remember when Johnny took the truck you were playing with? You were very angry and

you hit him. Next time that happens, what could you do instead? What could you do differently?” If your child tries a new strategy in that situation, be sure to praise him/her for trying something new and positive! Feelings themselves are not bad. We have negative responses to the emotions, but the feelings themselves are just a part of being human. We can make bad choices, but the feelings behind those choices are not the problem. Our actions are the problem.

A Warning...

Do not try and practice when your child is in the middle of a “meltdown.” Use quiet, calm times to teach and practice the new strategies. For example, if your child is having a “meltdown” because he/she does not want to wait for a cookie until after dinner, he/she

will not be in the mood to practice expressing his/her frustration with words. In this situation, you have to be deal with her emotions (e.g., “I know you really want a cookie now, but that is not an option, we are going to eat dinner in 5 minutes. You may have a cookie after dinner.”). However, you can talk with your child about the incident after he/she is calm and discuss the best way for expressing those emotions (“When you are frustrated that you can’t have what you want, you can tell me, but you can’t hit me or shout at me. Earlier, you wanted a cookie before dinner and you hit me. The next time you feel frustrated, you can tell me and then take a deep breath and calm down if you feel angry.”)

Play Games to Learn More About Feelings

Play. “I See,” with your child. You start the game by saying, “I am going to make a face, guess what I am feeling by looking at my face.” Then, make a happy or sad face. When your child guesses the feeling word, respond by saying, “That’s right! Do you know what makes me feel that way?” Follow by describing something simple that makes you have that feeling (“Going to the park makes me happy.” “I feel sad when it rains and we can’t go to the park.”).

Then, say to your child, “Your turn. You make a face and I will guess what you are feeling.” Don’t be surprised if your child chooses the same emotion that you just displayed; it will take time before your child can be creative with this game. Once you guess, ask your child to name what makes him/her have that emotion.

Make a Feelings Book

An easy project to do with your child is to create a homemade book about emotions. All you need is paper, crayons or markers, and a stapler. You can make a book about one emotion and have your child fill the pages with things that make him/her feel that way. For example, a “Happy Book” may have pictures that you and your child draw of things that make him/her happy, pictures cut out of magazines that are glued on the pages, or photographs of friends and family members.